Furniture Updating

(We are all remembering and paying personal respects to the lives lost in the tragedy of 9/11/2001 and their surviving families and friends)
(On every anniversary, in New York City, the names of the victims who died there are read out against a background of somber music. The President of the United States attends a memorial service at the Pentagon,[329] and asks Americans to observe Patriot Day with a moment of silence. Smaller services are held in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which are usually attended by the President’s spouse.)

After moving, and having decided what furniture we would be bringing with us (decided in the design phase and each piece carefully included in the design so size and space would be exact), some of those pieces need some updating. The dining room has so much “brown” I am going to repaint my dining set. We got it in the 80’s and really liked the quality and style, but now it needs some zing. The top has also become bleached out from direct sun hitting it.

I found a really good article on a blog I subscribe to, “Farm Fresh Vintage Finds”, and she repainted a client’s table and chairs with a really nice HomeRight Finish Max sprayer. Visit her blog and there is a chance to win that sprayer just by commenting on her blog story. Here’s the blog link; check it out.

The color of the paint she used is just what I am looking for,Annie Sloan French Linen, a pretty grey that would go well with our slate tile floors and the other greys going on in the kitchen stone backsplash, living room furniture, and Grey Granbury chopped limestone columns and fireplace wall.

I hope I might win that sprayer, but if not, then buying one is on my “to do” list and painting my dining set will also be added to my list. I would need to do it while it’s warm enough to paint, or else have to wait until Spring, which I really would not want to do. When I have a project in mind like this, I get really anxious to get going.

Have a great Friday!

Homemade Marinara sauce

I should have taken photos of the tomatoes I got off my two vines.  They went wild and I had tomatoes I didn’t know what to do with. I even gave some away to my lawn maintenance people before I figured out what to do with them.

I was not confident in my (lack of) experience with canning, so that was not an option.  I did find a pretty painless way to save my tomatoes and use them later.  I found a recipe for homemade marinara sauce made in a crock pot.  I had to try it and the results were fantastic.  I have food allergies, so am pretty limited on what I can eat and making my own food means I can make it with ingredients I can tolerate.

I looked on Pinterest and Googled for ideas on what to do with these tomatoes before they spoiled. I found my  highly recommended recipe and went about buying the few ingredients I didn’t have (balsamic vinegar and a few additional spices) and started.

First, removing the tomato peel is so easy, by scoring the tomatoes, putting a few tomatoes at a time in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunging them into ice water.  After a minute or so, take the tomato from the water and peel it. So easy.

When all the tomatoes are peeled, remove any undesirable bits, quarter them, and scoop all seeds out with a spoon, squish a bit with your hands to crush, and then they are ready for the crock pot.  You can chop them up well before adding, or leave kind of chunky and they will cook down where you can smash them up in the sauce as much as you want when cooked, leaving a smoother or chunkier sauce to your preference. Adding to the crockpot with all the other ingredients and cooking on low for about six hours produces the best sauce ever. Knowing there are no preservatives in it and it’s entirely healthy is another reason to make your own. Here’s my finished product.

marinara crockpot

Homemade marinara sauce ready to eat after six hours of slow cooking

marinara plated

Vegetable spirals pasta topped with homemade marinara sauce and some grated Mozzarella cheese

I am getting ready to make another batch this week. Use it up in a week, or freeze it for up to six months and use as needed.  I sneaked it onto anything I could think of because it tasted that good.  I gave some to my daughter who spiced it up more than I could ever handle, with garlic and jalapeno, and she raved about it.

Here are the tomatoes I’m currently working with; mine are on the right and the locally bought on the left.  Because they are nearing the end of the season, the plants are not producing as large as my first batch.


You can also use canned tomatoes (some information on the best brands to use was provided in various posts).  I will link the recipe I used, but there are so many different ones out there to peruse and see what ingredients they add to theirs. A roasted tomato marinara sauce with garlic and oregano is prepared totally in the oven, in roasting pans for about an hour, which is quicker and sounds very tasty.

Bon Appetit

Changing seasons

I always think, when Spring shows up, that I wish never to see Winter again (not that it’s that bad here in Texas, just inconvenient sometimes with ice), but then after the heat of July the air starts to cool just a little, a few rainstorms pop up and I’m ready to feel the cool Fall air.

It has started here, just subtly, but here we are again with a new season to experience.  I have to have my Seasons and I’m not sure I could live anywhere that didn’t have changing seasons.  I do love that here in Texas it is not as drastic as when I lived in Kansas, but it’s enough of a change to enjoy.


A tight squeeze for six babies to grow up

Learning to fly is hardwork

Learning to fly is hard work

The swallows raised two broods on the laundry room back porch and are still here flying the skies in morning and evening, the hummingbirds zinged around the feeders all summer and cooler weather has brought more to the area before they fly off for the winter, and this week brought some stormy weather and much needed rain.  We were drowned in water this Spring with an overabundance that did fill up all of our lakes that had been decimated by the drought.  I never ever thought I would see those full, and in fact they were overflowing, creating damage in some areas.

I have a few blogs that I enjoy following, and Cote de Texas is one I like to drop in on.  She also has her favorite blogs that I like to look in on and see various prettiness in scenery, architecture, and design.

My yard is still a work in progress. I am awaiting my installation of grass and sprinkler system around the house. It was delayed to Sept. because of all the rain in Feb and March when it was supposed to go in, then it got too hot when all the rain stopped in May/June and I wanted to wait for cooler weather.

I also have entry fence and gate to install after the grass and all the activity is done. I would not need a gate, except the neighbor’s horses show up for a free meal in the pasture and just destroy the yard to get to it (big draft horses with huge feet).  It was not an expense I had wanted, but no choice. I am leaning towards the Priefert Ponderosa fencing and I may upgrade to a nice curved top gate and an opener, and also an overhead.  I like the rugged posts and the heavy rails that have color choices.

So I welcome Fall, once again,  and I can work outside and enjoy nature all around.

Hobby Lobby and HomeGoods

As usual, I have tried to get projects done around the house, inside and outside. Sometimes it feels a little overwhelming when the to-do list keeps getting longer, but in between bigger projects I try to focus on squeezing in the little quick and easy things that will get knocked off the list. Hobby Lobby and HomeGoods are great shopping excursions for unique items to fill a void in a corner or update some seasonal decor. I only go with a definite item or idea to look for, or else everything looks like a good idea and I come home with things I don’t need.

I have a powder room off the entry that I was determined to get a gallery wall put up on a tall narrow wall, and so it finally came together when I found a perfect print on clearance at Hobby Lobby on a quick trip to get graphite paper, for a Subway art piece I am working on of all our many house addresses over the years. That is a work in progress because it’s big and tedious. But the gallery wall idea just wasn’t coming together in my head until I saw the “Enjoy the Ride” framed print. Perfect. Sold.

powder room gallerywall

I got started with gathering all my frames I collected, inserting photos and pictures I had, and making templates of each frame to layout on the living room floor before committing to putting them on the wall. Much easier with templates first to arrange and re-arrange and mark where the nail goes. Then sticking them on the wall with painters tape, aligning them perfectly and putting a nail into the wall through the template is the easiest method.

Much of the art relates to places we have been, so the “Enjoy the Ride” relates well. Our many ski trips to Pagosa Springs and Wolf Creek, Colorado, and our ritual meal at The Big Texan in Amarillo on our way there, visits to Santa Fé and Taos on our way home, and a trip we took to New York years ago. We got that photo of the Twin Towers on our ferry ride to Ellis Island. The handpainted picture of a Santa Fé Catholic church, which we also toured, is one we bought from a street artist from New York, who lives in and paints Santa Fé life. The mirror wall opposite the toilet and gallery wall have a photo under the mirror our daughter took a few years ago one morning from our condo in Pagosa Springs of the snowy mountain range view we had. The colors were amazing.

It all worked out perfectly, and I am happy with the result. The powder room is almost done. I have a window curtain to finish, and maybe stencil the big blank wall in the toilet area in a gloss finish paint of the same wall color for a subtle decorative pattern. But now, I am so glad the gallery wall became what I envisioned.

Powder room vanity

powder room gallerywall

powder mirror wall

Why, yes, I’ll have more rain, please

Cannot catch a break.  As much as we need the rain, and love the rain, I need to mow the yard.  The landscapers are six weeks behind on their projects and I can’t get a new yard put in until the end of May.  So, until then, mowing is becoming a challenge.  The pasture grasses absolutely grow a foot a day it seems.  And I can’t get out to mow until it dries out a bit between rain storms.  I did catch a couple of days of “dry” last week and got the front 2 acres mowed before more rain came through.  We have had more since then.  I spent half my time washing off the mower deck of the Husqvarna to unclog all the grass and mud stuck underneath so I could continue to mow.

In the meantime, I am trying to get some more projects started and finished around the house. Today, I went to Hobby Lobby and got a wall stencil to do a bit of accent on the powder room wall.  It needs something in there a bit dramatic, so I will take before and after photos.  I hope it turns out the way I envision it.

I am finishing up painting some tables so I can resell them.  I tried decoupaging one tabletop, but am not happy with how it turned out.  It wrinkled and was not an easy project and I am reading up on what caused that to happen.  I may have used too much Mod Podge.  I was also reading where some don’t like that product and recommended another brand.  I will give it another go.

I did install some Rev A Shelf drawers in the master bath buffet-turned-vanity.  It was an easy install and is definitely  better looking than the little plastic tubs I had used for storage. The RevAShelf brand is a little pricey, but the quality is definitely there, and the chrome looks so nice.

I’ve followed the blog-land’s One Room Challenge. It has a six-week deadline, and fun to see what everyone is up to in their makeovers.

It’s clouding up and looks like more rain is heading this way. No mowing for a few more days.

So much rain

It’s been a very wet and soggy spring. That’s good; the pond is overflowing and I don’t have to water the new trees as often. But, the landscaper I hired to install a sprinkler system and new yard is six weeks behind, which means I won’t get my yard until late May. I was hoping to get a lush lawn sooner than that, but I can’t complain about getting rain. In July we will be wishing for it.

I am also getting bids on a bit of nicer fencing at the driveway entry, instead of the barbed wire and tee posts. I am considering a rustic 3 or 4 rail cedar fence, and a gate. The neighbor’s horses like to get out of their pasture and find their way down my driveway to our pasture. When I get new grass, I don’t want 4 inch deep hoof prints and my new grass nibbled down. It’s really the only reason I’m getting a gate because I really don’t want the bother or any maintenance it might need. If solar can do the job, then I will go for it.

A kind neighbor got my Husqvarna lawn tractor tire repaired, and replaced the blades. The yard looks so much better after mowing with new blades. We just had no opportunity in the last couple years with my husband sick.

When it’s not raining we have to take advantage of that and work on outside projects and chores that need doing. I trimmed along the fence line and sprayed it so I don’t have to trim along it the rest of the summer. I love my cordless Black and Decker trimmer. The battery only gives me an hour at high-speed, so I will buy an extra battery to have at the ready. I straightened up some crooked posts and trimmed back some barbed wire that the builder did not take care of when they installed the drive. The drive went right through the barbed wire fence line, so they just cut the wire and pulled it back, not bothering to make it look good, and with extra wire hanging out in the way of my mowing. Taken care of.

Flowers and bulbs are planted, and finished up just before the next big round of rains came through this past weekend.

My few vegetables are doing nicely with all the rain. Tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, and eggplant (never tried growing it before).

The new trees are leafing out enough now to cast some shade. The hummingbirds have arrived, along with the swallows and scissortail flycatchers. The scissortails nested in one of our new trees last year.

Hopefully, I won’t have to wait on getting my new fencing installed. I hope to make that decision in the next week and get it going soon after.

Sticker shock

So, I got more trees (five huge 30 gal. October Glory maples) in place a couple weeks ago. This will probably be enough around the house, I think. I don’t get more than I can handle at once, because they require a consistent watering schedule that the dealer, TreeLand, requires you follow under his 18 month guarantee. We installed plenty of faucets around the house, and I invested in hoses for each faucet. In Texas, I read that it’s a good idea to have a hose at every faucet anyway due to threats of grass fires. It’s a little unsettling to smell smoke and not know how close it is. At our other house, 300 acres burned just down the road from us, and a change in wind direction or intensity can mean it will just take off out of control. Last fall, we saw the red flames over the hill next to us as our neighbor’s hay stack burned and the volunteer firemen stayed out there all night to make sure it was out. I have hoses going out to each tree and I just turn the water on every few days for about 20 minutes according to the schedule.

Next, my yard improvement plan (my list is long) included getting estimates for sodding just around the house, out the distance of a normal city yard, as a starting point. We built at the top of a hill in a 26 acre pasture, so pasture grasses come in and our neighbor cuts and bales the pasture for his livestock use, but around the house where they moved dirt it was all disturbed and now weeds are coming in instead. It’s not a pretty picture. We’ve never had a lawn installed; the houses we lived in already had good lawns, and the other house we built on three acres, we just kind of worked with what we had and I would overseed and fertilize around the house every year to keep improving it. It was never a pretty yard, but I did landscape up around the house myself and keeping it regularly mowed it looked fine.

The landscaper I called was recommended by our builder, and in checking around locally this landscaper has a bit of a monopoly. I went on Angie’s List to see who else is around, but my choices are….none. I do see this company is recommended and as long as I do my own homework on what I want, they should be able to meet my requirements.

It’s been so wet this winter and spring, we’ve had very little chance of the ground drying out between cloudbursts. The estimator came out on a day that it was just pouring and we stood on the porch as I outlined what I envisioned and we discussed what the yard probably needed. I emailed him our overall house layout and he took measurements from it to design the sprinkler and sod layout and work up an estimate for me.

I had no clue on how much square footage I was dealing with. The landscaper shows 22,000 sf. We talked over the plan for sod, which needs to include killing all the weeds first, hauling in some dirt for surface leveling, preparing the surface and then placing sod and fertilizing. It needs to have regular moisture to get started. I also am tired of hauling hoses, and this house is a nice house so I included an irrigation system in the estimate. Additionally, away from the sod edge towards the barbed wire fence line, all the soil was disturbed in building, and the weeds are taking over and I don’t see much pasture grass coming in for that area. It is the extended “front yard” and visible from the kitchen, dining and bedrooms. We are near the road so our whole house is visible and needs to look presentable. They estimated hydromulching that area with low growing native grass seeds to fill in and maintain the area. It would not require regular watering and fertilizing to establish, the mulching takes care of that.

I had three parts to my estimate, the sod and preparation, the irrigation system to reach all the sodded areas with drip irrigation in the flower beds, and the hydromulched area.

A week later I got my estimate. After reading the bottom line, I picked myself up off the floor, and I broke out the estimate into the three parts: sod, irrigation and hydromulch. Individually, it did not seem out of line, it’s just a lot of moola to shell out in one haul. Just under 18K for 22,000 sf., so 81 cents a square foot which is including all labor costs and taxes plus materials. I can’t really do any of it in phases, because one affects the other and they all need to be in place together. I could hydromulch that area later, but it just makes sense to do it all at once and be done.

I plan to call the guys and have someone come out to go over the estimate carefully to make sure everything is in it that I expect, and to also understand all the irrigation layout and maintenance schedule, and what additional costs are necessary down the road.

I have always envisioned a perfect lawn to enjoy here, and our grandson to play on. I will probably bite the bullet on this and say “go”. I am not very good with chunking money out like that, but overall, for my convenience, adding to the beauty of the house and also future resale value, it will be worth it.