Exploring an Urban Jungle

I love greenhouses and conservatories because they have the power to transport us into a another world:  A world with its own unique climate – one designed to give the plants living there everything that they need to thrive.  

But what happens when someone takes this concept even farther?  When a giant corporation with progressive ideas collaborates with some of the most innovative architects and botanists out there?  

The Amazon Spheres

One beautiful summer day, I stumbled upon The Spheres by accident.  I was rushing to an appointment.

 

I’d seen photos of The Spheres, but I didn’t realize I’d be passing them on my route.  I’d sort of written them off as another one of those poorly conceived pipe dreams that blight our urban landscape.  

But in real life, they looked amazing – fragile, elegant, and unique.  It was love at first sight.

I caught glimpses of the plant life inside.

 

Then from the security desk, which was as far as I was allowed to go, I saw part of the massive vertical garden.  I wanted in! 

But for me to get inside, I would have to get tickets in advance and come back on a designated Saturday.  And I already knew who I would invite:  Someone who enjoys gardens and futuristic stuff – my mom, Erika.

Reconnecting with Nature

The Spheres were designed as a place for employees at Amazon’s Seattle Headquarters to go to reconnect with nature and do a little creative thinking.  Quite the job perk!

But on this Saturday, The Spheres were open to those members of the public who had booked a timed ticket in advance.  Mom and I were among them. 

Once past the security desk, we were greeted by the 60-foot living wall.

 

 

We’d already learned that The Spheres are home to 40,000 plants, most native to high-elevation cloud forests.  And after seeing that living wall, I believed it!

The Spheres’ structure seemed much bigger from the inside.  Aside from the living wall, we really hadn’t known what to expect.  There was a jungle here!

With a massive indoor water feature,

 

Huge tree ferns,

 

And Rubi, the largest tree in The Spheres.  A docent told us she was transported from California via flatbed truck.

Various species of flora are tucked into her trunk.

Lights wind through her upper branches.

Nature and Structure

Modern architecture usually strikes me as cold and impersonal.  Not so with The Spheres.  The curved glass structure (2,636 panes of glass!) lends a quiet, airy backdrop to the natural elements inside – while reminding us that we truly are in an urban jungle set in the heart of a major city.

 

 

 

 

A huge “nest,” one of many creative seating areas for employees, seems to hang in mid-air, reachable only by a springy wooden bridge that mimics a canopy walk.

 

The Right Atmosphere

As with any good conservatory, the comfort of the plants comes first at The Spheres. 

The temperature is carefully controlled.  With all the natural light filtering through all of those panes of glass, I was surprised to see additional lighting.  There were also strategically placed fans and misters.  Often, we were walking through mist.  

Misters working on the living wall.

Inspiration

With any garden tour, I look for inspiration that I can use at home.  There was plenty here, even if it was on a grand scale.

Mom had recently started a vertical garden in her sunroom.  She is using mostly ferns so, as she often is, she is right on trend with the giant living wall –  although visiting here has probably given her a few new fern varieties to look for.

 

As for me, my plant crush continues to be my live Spanish moss.  For the time being, they are still happy on my front porch.  But when I bring them indoors for the winter, I might be looking to set up some scaled-back version of this idea.

Flora growing from a stump, live Spanish moss in the background.

 

I  could go on and on about what we saw at The Spheres, but instead I will leave you with this little slide show (which is just a tiny fraction of what we saw on our visit) in hopes that you might find some inspiration of your own.  

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.

DIY Vertical Gardens

Vertical gardens are trending, and it’s no wonder since they are a great way to maximize a small garden space or dress up a bland wall or fence.  Vertical plant hangers of all sizes are easy to find.

       

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

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My Birthday Gift From The Mad Scientist

Today we have a very special guest writer:  My brother, Dan (aka The Mad Scientist).   You might recall that he kicked off my Summer Guest Writer series by sharing his beautiful garage rebuild.

In this entertaining read, he is sharing how he transformed a grimy vintage fire extinguisher into a gorgeous work of art before giving it to me for my birthday.  Yes, I have a great brother!

But be warned:  Dan is in full-blown mad scientist mode here.  You’ll be seeing words like blowtorch, asbestos, and electrons just to name a few.  Please do not attempt any of this at home.  By some miracle, Dan is okay – or at least he appears to be.

So now I’m handing him the keyboard so he can take us to that mad and magical place where history and science meet:

Dan’s Fire Extinguisher Rebuild

So I’m walking around the salvage shop one day when an old fire extinguisher catches my eye. When most people think of an antique fire extinguisher, they imagine an intricate brass and copper work of art instead of a big red cylinder. This one was a big red cylinder, so most people passed it by. I could tell it was old, but not necessarily antique.

Through the scratches in the paint, I could see that the body was made of copper and the top was one solid brass casting. It may not have been antique but it was certainly valuable, so I bought it.

The label read “Carbon Tetrachloride.”  I didn’t know what that was, but it sounded dangerous. Back in the good ol’ days nobody bothered to manufacture anything that wasn’t lethal in some way, either lead-based or radioactive or containing asbestos.

Vintage fire extinguisher

 

Vintage fire extinguisher

WARNING: HISTORY CONTENT

I did a little research and found out that the use of carbon tetrachloride in fire extinguishers was banned in the early 1950’s. If they were banning stuff in the 50’s you know it was deadly. This is the time when people still had “Atomic Bomb” parties in Las Vegas so tourists could watch the above-ground nuclear tests.

Perfectly safe! (Image source unknown)

 

Parts of the fire extinguisher were patented in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s by Albert B. Phister. That’s just when the patents were filed, not necessarily the manufacture date. Especially since the patent drawings show flat-head screws, and the unit I bought has Philips.

Image courtesy of The United States Patent and Trademark Office

 

The predecessor to the Philips screw and driver was patented in 1933 by J. P. Thompson from Portland, Oregon. His design was quite different from what we see today.

Thompson’s original design. Image courtesy of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

 

As is the case with most inventors, Thompson had a good idea but no means to bring his idea to market. He tried to get several screw manufacturers to pick up his design, but no one was interested. When the patents were granted to Thompson in 1933, the rights were assigned to a Portland entrepreneur by the name of Henry F. Philips. This means that it was awarded directly to Philips, even though Thompson is credited with the invention. It also means that Thompson and Philips had a far more amiable relationship than most competing inventors. (The rivalry between Edison and Tesla was legendary.)

Henry Philips eventually bought out Thompson’s interests in the patent and then radically redesigned the screw and driver to the more familiar Philips screw we all know and love today.

Image courtesy of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

 

Philips managed to garner the interest of the American Screw Company who soon began producing his new design in 1936. The first big customer was General Motors who used Philips screws in the manufacture of the 1937 Cadillac. By 1939, over 20 companies had licensing agreements to manufacture Philips’ design, and the Philips had grossed over $77,000 in royalties alone (about $1.3 million in today’s dollar).

So, long story short (too late), the fire extinguisher I bought must have been manufactured sometime between 1939 and the early 1950’s.

 

The Clean-Up Begins

Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used in this post.

This fire extinguisher was caked in so much grease that some of the smaller screw heads were buried. The first order of business was to clean it up and take it apart.

 

 

One of those fancy, new-fangled Philips screws was stuck, and any attempt to loosen it only stripped the screw head. Sometimes heat can loosen a screw, so it was time to use my micro blowtorch.

I’d seen people do this on the internet, so it had to work.

 

I thought it would be prudent to take it out to the driveway and keep a garden hose handy in case the torch sets off the grease. But really, a fire extinguisher catching fire is just too ironic to actually happen in real life.

 

Success! And no fire.

 

After taking it apart I was really glad to be taking pictures of all this. Who knew a fire extinguisher would have so many parts, and they’re all copper, brass or steel. They really built things to last back then, even if they did fill it with poison. There is even a fitting to recharge it after use.

Quality build. Even the gauge face is real glass.

 

It was time to set up the grinder with a wire wheel. I spent the rest of the day and part of the next just scraping the old paint and tarnish off of all those parts. There were two pieces that had some kind of blue substance on them, probably just oxide, but I didn’t want to risk getting any radioactive lead-based asbestos on me, so I cleaned them off with a wet rag real good before using the wire wheel on them.

I used a brass wheel instead of steel so it’s easier on softer metals.

 

Before and after.

 

The brass really gleams!

 

 

Paint stripper could only do so much with all those nooks and crannies on the top casting, so it was time to try out my new Proxxon roto-tool that Chris and Heidi gave me for my birthday (Germany’s answer to a Dremmel). I used the smallest grinding bit I could find and spent the better part of the day grinding away on it.

 

Almost there. This is seriously tedious work.

 

Back to the large wire wheel for the copper body. It turned out reasonably well.

 

Then I spent about two hours buffing it by hand.

A Big Problem

Now I had another problem. All the shiny copper and brass made the steel parts look out-of-place. Despite my best efforts to shine them up, they still cheapened the whole look of the extinguisher. I could paint them but I’d been wanting to try my hand at metal plating, and this project seemed like the perfect candidate for it.

 

WARNING: SCIENCE CONTENT

Copper electroplating is a rather straight-forward process. You are basically creating a medium in which, when current is applied to the metals, the copper ions to disassociate from a copper anode and flow through the solution towards, and become deposited on, the steel cathode.

Simple, right?

 

I would use copper acetate as an electrolytic solution made from vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and a pure copper scouring pad. After soaking the pad in the vinegar/peroxide solution, the copper ions would break free from the pad and become suspended in the solution.

Here’s what I’ll be using.

 

The solution should turn blue in a few minutes.

 

Chock full o’ copper ions.

 

I actually didn’t want to overdo it with the free-range copper ions in the solution. Too much copper could create burn spots and uneven plating. To provide the current, I would use three C-cell batteries (they still make those!) I didn’t want to over-do it with the voltage either.

My first attempt at plating.

 

Oxygen bubbles forming on the anode.

 

So after 20 minutes of soaking in the plating solution with 4.5 volts running through it, the result was … nothing. I was so bummed that I forgot to take a photo of it. The batteries were hooked up right, this should have worked. I tried sanding, cleaning, and degreasing it all over again. And again, no result. Maybe copper won’t plate directly to steel?

But I wasn’t giving up yet. An alternative to electroplating is chemoplating. The way I figured it, copper ions can be chemically bonded to a metal. I’d have to use sulfate rather than acetate so the copper ions wouldn’t need the nudge from the flow of electrons to get deposited onto the metal I was plating. That was the theory, anyway. I couldn’t wait to see if it would work!

This is why Heidi calls me The Mad Scientist.

 

Copper sulfate is the main ingredient in a popular drain cleaner designed specifically for killing roots that have intruded into your sewer line.

Here’s what I’ll be using.

 

It’s weird dipping something in a blue liquid and expecting it to come out brown.

 

It’s working!

 

That was more like it! And it only took a few seconds for the copper to be deposited onto the metal.  One thing I noticed, though, was that the plating was not consistent and not very shiny. I’d never get it to buff up like a brand-new penny, and it was showing spots of oxidation right out of the solution. It ended up looking like antique copper instead.

 

 

This being a vintage fire extinguisher, I think I can live with the results. It gives it that antique look.

Then I realized this fire extinguisher would be far too fabulous to just hide it away in my garage and there is really no place for it in my house. But it would look great in Heidi’s recently remodeled laundry room. It would fit in perfectly with that décor yet still be visible. And Heidi had a birthday coming up so, happy birthday Heidi. Here’s a used fire extinguisher! (This family is not normal).

One final buffing and here it is …

refurbished Vintage fire extinguisher
It went back together pretty easily. I was expecting more of a fight.

 

refurbished Vintage fire extinguisher

 

refurbished Vintage fire extinguisher

Heidi’s Note

Do you remember that old song by Right Said Fred called “I’m Too Sexy?”  Well this fire extinguisher is too sexy for my laundry room.  It’s there for the time being, but it’s a gorgeous piece of art, and I’m going to find a better place to display it.

Vintage fire extinguisher

 

 

When refurbishing an old piece, it’s important to know when to stop.  Dan struck the right balance here.  The fire extinguisher doesn’t look brand new.  It has character and intrigue.

Vintage fire extinguisher

 

 

And what a long way it’s come from that salvage shop find!

Fire extinguisher as found.

 

I think I can safely say that no one else has a vintage piece of art quite like this.  The Mad Scientist has done it again!

Vintage fire extinguisher

 

 

Vintage fire extinguisher

 

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

 

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

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Preparing For A Home Remodel

When I first announced my summer guest writer series, I was a little worried that I would be too much of a control freak to actually enjoy handing the keyboard over to other authors.  But now I love the anticipation of seeing what my guest writers will send me next.  The topics so far have been varied and useful.  So after summer ends, I will continue to welcome guest writers from time to time.

This post speaks to me because living through a major home remodel can really test a relationship. So it’s important to plan ahead.  By setting up a small makeshift kitchen in our living room, Chris made it easy for us to cope with our kitchen remodel.  Even so, that little kitchen had to be moved several times – with the fridge eventually ending up on our front porch in the dead of winter.  I remember those cold mornings when I had to go outside to put milk in my coffee.  But at least I still had coffee!

If you’re planning a major remodel or know someone who is, the tips below should come in very handy.

The following is a contributed post.  For information on my contributed posts, please click here.

Preparing For A Home Remodel

Whether you’re about to remodel a part of your home or the entire house, you’re going to need to run through some preparation steps beforehand. After all, your house won’t be exactly usable until the work is complete, and that’s something you’re going to have to plan ahead for! And so, with the tips we’ve compiled below, let’s get you started on your home remodel plan of action. Don’t let yourself wait until the day the workmen come in to pack up your things and take your family elsewhere! 

Image courtesy of Michal Jermoluk on Pixabay

Find a Place to Stay

If the remodel is going to turn you out of house and home for a while, you’re going to need to find a place to stay ahead of time. And if you’re not sure if the remodel is going to require you to leave for a little while, think about it now – or call up the team that’s going to be undertaking the bulk of the work for you and ask for their opinion on it! 

How many rooms are you going to be losing the use of? Will the house be secured and covered for the next two weeks or so? Depending on the answers to questions like these, you might need to arrange to stay with extended family, or a kind friend, or you might need to budget for a hotel or a B&B for a while! 

Throw Some Things Out

It’s also much better to get rid of your junk now, when you’ve got the chance to properly go through your household inventory and see what your new house model is going to need.  For example, if you have an old, musty fridge that should have been thrown away years ago, call up a service like Junk Removers and get it gone! Now you know what kind of space you’re working with, and what kind of equipment you’ll need to fill it.

Prep Your Meals

And finally, if you’re losing the use of your kitchen, or most of your main floor, make sure you prep some meals ahead of time. You’re still going to need to eat and drink while your house is being renovated and remodeled, and you can very easily invest in a portable cooler to store your food packs while your fridge is out of use. 

Image courtesy of Martin Vorel on Pixabay

Think about what kind of meals would pack the most punch, nutrition wise. You don’t want to be relying on easy, snack-like meals at a time like this. Make sure you’re meal prepping with value, as the kids are definitely going to need to stock up on energy during such a disruptive period of their young lives! 

Preparing for a home remodel can be a bit tricky – there’s a lot you’ll have to do! So starting early is key.  And make sure you secure that overflow accommodation as soon as you possibly can.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials or endorsements.

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

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Seven Ways To Make Your Garden Child Safe

Few things warm my heart more than seeing a child take an interest in nature and the outdoors.  It’s good for the child, and it’s good for our planet.  So I really appreciated this guest post, sent to me by a summer guest writer, with some suggestions for keeping kids safe in the garden.

The following is a contributed post.  For more information on my contributed posts, click here.

The garden can be a great place to spend time together as a family, but there are also inherent dangers to your children when they’re playing outdoors. There are some easy ways to keep your garden safe for even the littlest members of the family.

1.   Safe Plants

Find plant nursery locations near you where you can go and speak to an expert about safe plants. Children are tempted to put just about everything into their mouths, so it’s important that anything you plant is safe to be consumed, even if it isn’t strictly intended to be eaten. This is a great choice if you have pets at home too.

2.   Fences and Gates

Keep fence panels in good repair. If the fence is falling down, and the gate is always left open, it’s all too easy for a small child to slip out unnoticed. Keep the fence up and add a tall gate with a catch that is either out of reach or too hard for a child to open by themselves. This will keep them in the garden where they’re supposed to be!

3.   Water Safety

A child can drown in even a tiny amount of water, so make sure that there’s nowhere they could fall into the water. If you have a water butt, keep a lid on it and weigh the lid down with something heavy. If you have a pond, consider filling it in. If you don’t want to fill it in, cover it with some tight mesh. The kids can still watch the fish, but won’t be able to topple in. During the hot weather, never let a child play in a paddling pool unattended, and be sure to empty it as soon as you’re finished using it, so there’s no risk of accidents.

4.  Discourage Pests

Discourage pests from visiting your garden by picking up any fallen fruit that may attract wasps. Immediately remove any wasps’ nest that start to form. Add a wasp trap to get rid of these nasties. Don’t leave toys outside overnight so they don’t get crawled over by slugs.

5.  A Clean Sandbox

Cats using your garden as a bathroom can be a real issue if you have kids. If your kids have a sandbox, be sure to secure the lid carefully at night so there’s no way for a cat to get in and use it as a giant litter box. Rubber snakes left on the lawn can also discourage cats from coming into your garden.

 

6.  Safe Practices with Garden Tools and Chemicals

Be careful with where you store any gardening tools or chemicals. Whether they go in the garage or in the shed, make sure they are locked away in a space that the kids don’t have access to. When gardening, allow the kids to help you, and use the time to teach them about the dangerous things you use and why they shouldn’t touch them when you’re not there. Don’t let your children handle any of the chemicals you might be using.

7.  Providing Shade

Children are more sun sensitive than adults, so add some shaded areas for them to enjoy playing outside out of the direct sunlight. A tree, a playhouse or a patio umbrella are easy ways to add some shade.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials or endorsements.

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
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Dan’s Workshop
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Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
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Surprise Surprise: My Garden Sphere Update

You might remember that, earlier this summer, I shared my Easy DIY Hanging Garden Sphere.  I also shared it on Hometalk where, to my surprise, this simple project became wildly popular.

 

 

But the surprises were just beginning.

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.

Invasion of the Giant Hand

The sphere was hanging at eye level on my front porch.  One day, after it had been hanging there a couple of weeks, I went to see see if it needed watering.  Since I’m too lazy to use a moisture meter, I put my hand into the sphere to feel the soil and see if it was dry.

Suddenly a little bird burst out of the sphere and screeched at me.  She was very upset, so I backed away.   Later I checked and, sure enough, there was a tiny nest in there.

 

Black eyed junco eggs in my hanging garden sphere!

 

Imagine this poor mama bird’s surprise when a giant hand came down and almost destroyed her nest!

The smaller leaves around the nest are from baby tears.  Baby tear leaves are only about a quarter inch long at best, so you can imagine how tiny these eggs were.

We have several feeders and bird baths in our garden, so maybe this bird saw that as an invitation to build a nest here.

This mama bird had a devoted mate, and after getting a few more looks at them we figured out that they were dark-eyed juncos.

 

 

Juncos usually place their nests on or near the ground – or sometimes in hanging baskets.  The sphere was a prime location:  Its wire cover made it safe from predators.  Under cover of the porch, it was also protected from weather.

After discovering the nest, I only watered the sphere when both parents were away, which wasn’t often.  And I didn’t water near the nest.

Needless to say, the sphere did not get much water.

Soon the eggs hatched.  Both parents scurried to feed the hatchlings.  It was pretty adorable how devoted these junco parents were to each other and to their babies.

They ran a tight ship.  They kept the nest clean by carrying away the cracked egg shells and baby bird poop.

Junco hatchlings: Tiny balls of fluff

 

The parents yelled at us (in the form of a “tick! tick!”) whenever we neared the front porch.

 

Don’t even think about coming over here, humans!

 

I didn’t want to sacrifice their sense of security by hovering or taking lots of photos.  We stayed away for the most part, and any viewing of the sphere happened from afar.

 

Bird watching from the media room window: We know you’re in there, chicks!

 

Finally the big day came:  The babies left the nest.  I guess I was expecting a little more fanfare, but it happened so quickly and quietly that we didn’t even notice.

I was thrilled that they made it – and thrilled to have our front porch back.  Now we could finally sip coffee on the swing rocker again!

Or so I thought.

 

What?  Again?

Just a few days after the babies had left, I watered the sphere and stopped to marvel at what I thought was the empty nest.

But then I noticed something was wrong.  The bottom of the nest was missing and I could see the soil underneath.

Were the parents removing the nest?

But wait, were there two nests in there?  Yep, what I was looking at was actually a new nest under construction – directly across from the old nest.

So much for using the swing rocker.

 

Junco nest under construction

 

Juncos hide their nests well.  You have to look pretty hard to spot them in the photo below.

Junco nests.

 

 

Chris talked to a bird expert who told him that it could be the same mating pair who built the first nest, or it could be a different pair.

My money is on it being the same pair.

The expert also said that we were doing the right thing by trying to keep the sphere watered since the plants provided protection for the birds. We just had to be careful.

The nest took shape quickly.  It was built right into the soil.

 

A cozy new junco nest

 

Soon four tiny eggs appeared.  The devoted dad was usually close by while mama sat on the nest.

The eggs hatched, and mom and dad once again scurried to find food.

 

Junco hatchlings

 

And, once again, we got yelled at whenever we neared the front porch.

 

Stop right there, humans!

 

Then one day I was working in the driveway and I heard that all-too-familiar “tick tick” sound of a worried parent junco.  That’s when I saw an immature bird hopping around in the shrubs a few feet away.

Yes!  The babies were coming out of the nest.  Soon we could use our porch again.

 

 

It still feels strange and a bit disappointing to just waltz out to our front porch without getting yelled at by juncos.  And it’s funny how a location that was so important to them a mere week ago now sits abandoned.  The first nest has already been covered over by the baby tears.

Things did not go quite as I’d planned for my garden sphere, and it is probably a little worse for being neglected this summer.  But I love that it was the safe and cozy home for eight new birds.

Next year I might try planting a fern in the sphere.

I hope the juncos like it.

Related Reading

Interested in learning more about birds and how to attract them to your garden?  We’ve been enjoying reading The Joy of Bird Feeding by Jim Carpenter.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials or endorsements.

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
Entertaining
My Shop
Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
Floral Design
Garden Design
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Our Laundry Room Remodel

 

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How To Stay On Top Of Damp In Your Home

Many years ago, I had just moved into a new home.  It wasn’t the house we have now, it was a small mid century daylight rambler.  I’d been there about a week when we got a huge accumulation of heavy, wet snow.  The snow melted quickly, the ground got saturated, and my basement (which the previous owner had just finished with carpet and drywall) flooded.  What a mess!

My boyfriend (now husband) and I spent New Year’s Eve pumping water out of my basement with wet vacs.

And all the fun plans I had for sprucing up my little rambler were put on hold while I dealt with the damage and had a French drain installed.

Moisture damage waits for no one.  And, since many of us will need to deal with it at some point in our lives, I thought this guest post was worth sharing.

The following is a contributed post.  For more information on my contributed posts, please click here.

How To Stay On Top Of Damp In Your Home

If you have a damp problem in your home, it can be incredibly expensive to fix. It’s not just a case of wiping the walls down and cleaning away any black spots because it’s just going to come back again. If you want to deal with the damp effectively, you need to make a constant effort to keep excess moisture from building up so the problem doesn’t occur in the first place. If you have trouble with damp in your home, these are some of the best ways to stay on top of it. 

Do Regular Checks

If you can catch the problem early and take action, you may be able to stop the damp from setting in. When you have a bit of excess moisture building up on the surface of the wall, that isn’t too much of a problem and it should be simple to deal with. It’s when the water soaks into the wall and the damp really sets in that you need to be worried, so it’s important that you regularly check for any signs of damp around the home. If you make this part of your regular home maintenance routine, you should be able to catch it before it gets out of hand. 

Identify The Problem Areas

When you’re doing your checks, you will probably start to notice certain areas that are problematic. These might be rooms like the bathroom where ventilation is an issue or certain windows that build up a lot of condensation. If you have a basement in your house, that’s likely to be a big problem area for damp as well. You need to identify these problem areas and find ways to reduce the damp. 

Water Pumps

Dealing with damp in the basement can be tough but, if you don’t tackle the problem there, it will start to spread throughout the house. The best way to keep your basement dry is to install a Tsurumi sump pump on the property, especially if the lower floors of the house sit below the water table. The pump will divert a lot of the water so it doesn’t seep into the walls and cause damp. If your basement is prone to flooding, you need to boost the flood defenses around your home, otherwise, you will struggle to deal with the damp. 

Ventilation

Damp problems that are caused by lack of ventilation are actually a lot easier to deal with in most cases. Bathrooms and kitchens often get damp because you create a lot of steam when showering and cooking and, if that steam doesn’t have anywhere to go, it sits on the walls and starts to get damp.

 

Image by Melanie Feuerer from Pixabay

 

Sometimes opening a window and using an extractor fan is enough to deal with the issue but, if it is still a problem, you should consider getting a dehumidifier to take the excess moisture out of the air. 

The key to dealing with damp is prevention because, if you let it set in, that’s when you will have to spend a lot of money on extensive repairs.

 

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A DIY Shatter-Resistant Garden Mirror

In my previous post, I shared my makeover of a dark shade garden.  That makeover included a DIY garden mirror that I hung on the back fence to bring in and reflect light.

Ideally a garden mirror, one that will stay out all summer, or possibly all year, should be shatterproof and weatherproof.  Now I’m not sure if the mirror I came up with really hits those marks, but I do know that it is shatter-resistant.  As for the rest, time will tell.

The project started with  . . .

Finding Frames

I scoured thrift shops to find a frame made of plastic, resin, or some other weather-resistant material.

I found these frames on sale at a local thrift shop and paid about $7 for the pair.  They had cheap, ugly “art” in them, which I removed.  I was only interested in the frames.

Thrift store frames

 

I bought two frames because I had a gut feeling that I should do a small test mirror first to avoid making mistakes on the “real” mirror.

Turned out I was so right about that – mistakes were made!  Very silly ones at that.

We will come back to the test mirror later, but for now we’ll talk about my experience with the larger frame – the one I worked on after I had learned from my mistakes.

Finding the “Glass”

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The large frame would hold a 18″ X 24″ piece of art – or, for my needs, a clear acrylic sheet.  I found one the right size at my local hardware store.

The acrylic sheet is lightweight, shatter-resistant, and non-yellowing.

Making an “Antique Mirror”

Step one of making an outdoor “antique mirror” is very, very important:  Put a piece of blue painter’s tape on one side of the acrylic sheet.

Blue tape marks the front side of the acrylic sheet

The blue tape marks the front side – the side that should not be painted.  Otherwise, things can get very confusing later in the project – especially if you’re me and you manage to find a way to lose track of which side of the sheet you were actually painting.  Since it’s a clear sheet, once you lose track it’s almost impossible to tell.

So anyway, blue tape.

 

With the front “blue tape” side of the mirror facing down, I spray painted the back side with Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect.  I chose it because I read that it gives glass the look of an antique mirror.

This paint has a heavy fume smell so, after a while, I decided to use a painter’s mask.  Some of the other paints and products I mention below are pretty intense too so, if you use them, be sure to read and follow the cautions on the labels.  I also tried to keep my painting project far away from things like bird feeders and bee activity.

Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect after one coat

(Please excuse my old-sheet-turned-dropcloth here which, as you can see, I have been using for years.  It’s starting to look like abstract art itself.)

It took quite a few coats of paint to actually cover the acrylic sheet.  And the paint looked a bit alarming when it was in the process of drying.

Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect dries unevenly, but not to worry

But I wasn’t going for perfection here.  I wanted it to be a bit imperfect and patinated so it would look like an antique mirror.

After about five coats, I could still vaguely see through the “mirror” when I held it up to fence where it would hang.  It needed a backing of some sort to make the “mirror” opaque.  So, after the mirror paint dried, I sprayed black paint right over the mirror paint.

Yes, I sprayed it on the same side of the acrylic sheet where I had sprayed the mirror paint.  This step was a bit counter-intuitive, and my paint-fume-soaked brain had a hard time grasping the concept.

 

I used RustOleum Engine Enamel, in gloss black, from my husband’s stash of spray paint only because I had it on hand and, since it’s intended to be used on engine parts, it seemed like it would be a durable paint.

Could I instead have used some sort of black weatherproof backing and just placed it in the frame behind the acrylic sheet?  That might have worked too. Or it might not have if, at some point, water found its way between the “mirror” and the backing and caused some sort of problem.  Since it’s an outdoor mirror, this could happen.

And this way just seemed like less work.

I let the “mirror” dry thoroughly.

 

The Garden Mirror – Or Not

I wasn’t sure how I would secure the “mirror” to the frame, but it turned out that I didn’t need to worry.  That piece of acrylic fits so snugly into the frame that it isn’t going anywhere.

If anything, it’s so snug that there is a slight bow in the acrylic sheet that, if it were any more pronounced, would give it a “funhouse mirror” look.

One reason I liked the frame that I found for the mirror was that it looked like black bamboo.  So I hadn’t intended to paint it.

But when I hung the mirror, I was underwhelmed.

DIY garden mirror

The frame looked boring and dated.

Back down it went – back to my much-used spray paint drop cloth.

Painting the Frame

It would have been really hard to get the acrylic sheet out of the frame again, so I just masked it with newspaper so I could spray paint the frame.

I used the sports section since I never read it.

I really should look through my husband’s paint stash more often.  This time I found another product intended for engine parts called Dupli-Color Adhesion Promoter.  I used it on the frame to make sure the spray paint would adhere properly to the plastic frame. (Time will tell if this step actually helped.)

Then I painted the frame with the RustOleum “Gold Rush” Metallic spray paint – which I had on hand.

The Result

Classic gold frames never go out of style.  And I love the contrast of the rustic fence against the polished gold.

Shatter-resistant DIY garden mirror

As for the mirror itself, it is not super-clear.  In fact, it is a bit hazy.  Everything reflected in it has a sort of “dreamlike” look.

 

Shatter-resistant DIY garden mirror

But I love how it brings light, interest, and even motion to a dark area of the garden.

This mirror does reflect a lot of light, so I would not want to use it in an area that gets direct sun.

Will it really hold up outside?  Time will tell.  But will a flying rock or errant softball break the “glass?”  Probably not.

The Test Mirror – And What Went Wrong

This is how the test mirror turned out.  It is the result of my doing everything wrong.

DIY garden mirror

What I think happened here is that I lost track of which side I had painted with the mirror paint.  And then, instead of painting the black paint on top of the mirror paint, I painted it on the reverse side of the “glass.”

To secure the mirror to the frame, I used a strong glue.  The glue seeped out along the sides and, when I wiped it away, some of the mirror paint actually came off with it, leaving black paint exposed.

DIY antique garden mirror

 

So this mirror has a lot of patina and looks very much like an antique mirror.  For this mirror, I used Krylon “Looking Glass” Silver paint, which to me seemed very similar to the Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect that I used on the large mirror.

I had experimented a bit by using a paper doily as a stencil, and the look is fun.

DIy antique garden mirror

 

But as you can see, the actual mirror part is very murky.  That’s because the mirror paint is sitting on top of the acrylic sheet instead of behind it.

For the right look, it’s always best to paint on the back side of the sheet.

Now I’m intrigued about the endless possibilities of DIY antique mirror projects.  I want to do a little experimenting using more stencils and finding new ways to create a patinated look.  I might even use real glass next time.

Where’s my blue tape?

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Creating A Vintage Look With Wooden Windows

Like many older homes, our little 1920s cottage suffered an unfortunate “remuddle” in the mid-1900s.  We have spent many years restoring its original charm.  But, by some miracle, most of the original wood-clad windows are still intact – and the ones that were removed were replaced with newer wood-clad windows.

I’ve always loved wood-clad windows for their timeless appeal, but they have a few other virtues that I hadn’t thought of.  In this post, brought to me by a guest writer, we learn about the advantages of wood-clad windows.

The following is a contributed post.  For information on my contributed posts, please click here.

Creating a Vintage Look with Wooden Windows

The design of your property’s windows is important. This is because they have the capacity to dictate the overall style of your home. After all, they are a dominant feature when it comes to both the interior and the exterior of a building. When determining what option to go for, there are many things to consider. Do you go for something contemporary or conventional? Which material should you use? Should you bring color into the equation? This post  reveals more about the option of a stunning vintage wooden window design. 

Vintage styles are undoubtedly on trend at the moment so, if you want something that is going to wow, this is certainly the option to go for. Nevertheless, by opting for a traditional design you are also going to reap the rewards of timeless beauty.

You don’t have to worry about the window style ever being viewed as unfashionable or outdated. You have selected a design that transcends the barriers of time.  Whether it is 2019 or 2030, your windows are going to look just as beautiful. 

Wood is such a versatile material to use and it is probably the only option you can go for if you are trying to create a vintage look at your home. Other materials used today, such as PVC, have a contemporary feel. Wood, on the other hand, has been used in homes for years.

In fact, if you look at old heritage buildings you will see that the windows have been made from wood.

Yes, it may have been a different type of wood than used today, and construction methods may have improved, but it is still the same material – wood. If you are trying to emulate a traditional feel in your home, nobody can deny that wood boasts a rustic and authentic feel. 

Nonetheless, despite the evident benefit of achieving the perfect vintage style with wooden windows, there are other benefits associated with selecting wood as your material of choice.  Wooden windows from the likes of Reece Builders tend to represent good value for money.  Nowadays you can generally have them installed at a more reasonable cost than you were able to before. Moreover, value is also achieved via the fact that wooden windows tend to last a lot longer when compared with other options and therefore you need not worry about replacements.

In addition to this, wood is efficient. It has a very low level of thermal conductivity and acts as an effective insulator. Wood windows also have the lowest environmental impact of any material used for window construction. 

To summarize, there are clearly many benefits associated with using wood as your material of choice for window design. Nonetheless, the true benefit lies within the fact that you will be able to generate that fantastic vintage feel; beautiful and traditional windows which will stand the test of time.

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Brightening Up a Dark Garden

Recent I shared my Mom’s garden corner makeover, where she transformed a tangle of overgrown shrubs into a seamless part of her lush and serene “secret garden” backyard.

Every time I visited Mom, I would marvel at how quickly that space was evolving into something so beautiful.

And then I would come home to this.

Cottage Garden Gone Wild!

This was the little space between our plum tree and our garden shed.  With the neighbor’s garage directly behind it, it doesn’t get much light.

 

Shade garden before cleanup.

This horrible photo, taken with my aging cellphone, still makes the space look more attractive than it actually was.

 

 

Weedy perennials and suckers from the plum tree had swallowed up a potted hosta, a potted ligularia, and even a mature rhododendron.

 

Shade garden before cleanup

It was a real mess, and I could see it every time I looked out the kitchen window.  And every time I looked, the little voice in my head said “Heidi you slacker!”

 

Shade garden before cleanup.

It was time to clean up this area and make it fun.

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The Cleanup

Of course I was hesitant to remove blooming perennials.  After all, I told myself, this is a cottage garden which by definition is not expected to be perfect. But that reasoning is why the area had become so chaotic in the first place.

So, with my heart in my throat, I removed violets, poppies, feverfew, and even a few foxgloves – for now.  I’m sure they will creep back next year, but hopefully with a little less enthusiasm.

 

Shade garden after cleanup

 

Shade garden after cleanup

The poor, neglected rhododendron needed pruning.  So I did what I usually do with shrubs its size:  I limbed it up.

 

Hosta, rhody, and ligularlia

Limbing up gives the plant a little more air circulation – and also a tidier look.

I added a layer of mulch to the soil, and the cleanup was done.

And now the fun could start.

 

Adding Light and Color

I wanted to add a little light and color to this dark area, but I didn’t want to add any self-seeding or spreading perennials.  So I decided, for the most part, to stick with annuals since they die away in late-fall.

I planted a drift of trailing lobelias in front of the potted hosta ( which is actually two different hostas in one pot).

 

Potted hosta

I’ve never planted lobelias in the shade before, so we will see how they do.

I brought in a footed urn that I had on hand and planted it with a sweet little Himalayan maidenhair fern.

I chose this particular type of maidenhair fern because in time it will grow enough to drape over the edge of the pot (as opposed to growing upward), and hopefully it will look amazing.

 

Himalayan maidenhair fern

I rescued a few white impatiens from the discount rack of a local store and planted them around the urn.

I had moved a heuchera in from another area, but it was drooping and too sparse, so I bought a fresh citronelle heuchera to group with baby tears and a fuchsia (yet to bloom).

 

Baby tears, citronelle heuchera, and fucshia

 

Adding Something Unexpected

Gardens are always more interesting when there is a little human touch to contrast nature.  And I needed something to lighten up the super-dark area at the very back, near the fence line – something to define the boundary of the space.

So I came up with this DIY shatter-resistant garden mirror.

 

The faux “antique glass” softens the reflection and gives it a dreamlike look.  When there is a breeze, it’s fun to see the movement of the plants reflected in the mirror.

 

DIY garden mirror

I still think this area could use something large-scale, so my only regret is that the mirror is not larger – a lot larger.

Even so, it is a fun addition, and it brings in some light.

 

DIy garden mirror

 

Shade garden after cleanup

I feel like I could do more with this area, but for now I’m going to give the new plants time to settle in and then see what happens.

 

Garden Mirror How-To Post Coming Soon

The DIY shatterproof garden mirror, with its “antique glass,” was the result of a fair amount of trial and error on my part – and a few happy accidents.  I’ll be telling you all about that in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!

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Good Night, Great Morning

I never truly understood how frustrating it can be to have trouble sleeping.  But just recently, I’ve started to notice that it’s not as easy as it used to be for me to get a good night’s sleep.

I have found that getting enough exercise during the day usually helps, but that doesn’t always work with my schedule.  So I’m looking forward to trying a few of these tips brought to me by a guest writer.

The following is a contributed post.  For more information on my contributed posts, please click here.

Good Night, Great Morning

Getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge for so many people. With our busy, connected lives, we’re often rushing around and fall into bed exhausted at the end of a long day – yet unable to switch off.

The problem might be environmental, physical, or simply a poor routine. In this guide, we take a look at what you can do to get your best night’s sleep ever.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Get Ready

Cut out the caffeine after midday and stick to water and non-caffeinated drinks. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, so it might be worth experimenting and going without to see if that makes a difference.

Even as much as two hours before you normally hit the hay, think about powering down your body. Keep your ambient lighting turned way down to help rest your eyes and let your body know that bedtime is right around the corner. While many people fall straight to sleep after drinking alcohol, very often that sleep is poor quality and they wake up in the middle of the night feeling thirsty, so try to avoid excessive alcohol before you go to sleep.

Make sure that the television, tablet, or mobile phone is switched off at least one hour before bedtime – even earlier if you can. This helps your brain to slow down and stop processing information. The blue light of a mobile phone is known to trigger brain activity, so make a rule for yourself that you won’t take your phone up to bed with you but rather leave it off, silent in another room.

Think Bed

If there’s one thing worth investing in for your home it’s a great bed with a mattress that’s just the right size and firmness. Find a mattress size guide to determine which size bed is best for you.  And always buy the best quality that you can afford. You spend a lot of time on your mattress, so choosing a good one will go a long way toward getting a great night’s sleep.

Your pillow is also important, so figure out if you need one or two for a more comfortable position and then buy good quality ones – hypoallergenic if necessary.

Create a Restful Atmosphere

When you’ve got your bed ready, the light blocked out with lined curtains, and the heat turned down to warm rather than hot, you’re ready to go and get the rest your body deserves. If you need to, use earplugs, eye covers, or whatever helps you block out any excessive noise and light from your room.

Getting rest and restoring your brain and body is exactly what you need to take on the challenges of a new day. Make sure that you make sleep a priority so you’ll be functioning at your very best the next day. Get your head down for a good night and prepare for a great morning.

 

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

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