Suburban Life

Composting

I enjoy gardening in warmer months and it saves my family a ton of money off our grocery bill. I used to haul 40lb bags of gardening soil to my garden to enrich my plants. Organic gardening soil is expensive, so I decided to make my own using kitchen scraps. It is actually pretty easy and efficient.

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I started a compost pile in my yard with a compost bin that was left by the previous owners of our house. In the past we had used it for grass and yard clippings just to get them out of sight, but during this Fall I started to do some research and found the best way to enhance my gardening yield and add more nutrition to my food was to compost. Without getting too technical, you need an equal mix of browns and greens – carbon and nitrogen.

A great Green/Brown chart I found on Google

A great chart I found on Google

One of the best things for your compost is shredded leaves. Since I don’t have a leaf blower/shredder I raked them into a pile and ran over it with the lawnmower. I wound up with a giant pile of crushed leaves which I added to the bottom of the compost bin. In just days, they settled and I began to fill the bin with more kitchen scraps. Now I just add more scraps every time I have a full batch from the kitchen.

Compost bin from Chef'n for my kitchen

Ceramic kitchen compost bin from Chef’n for my kitchen. Can be found here.

Bin has a charcoal filter to deter smells and an easy to carry bucket to bring to the outside bin.

Bin has a charcoal filter to deter smells and an easy to carry bucket to bring to the outside bin.

In addition to the kitchen and yard scraps, I also add shredded paper towel and toilet paper rolls to ease up on the size of my trash. Especially with dogs – you go through a lot of paper towels! Dryer lint is also great for composting. It adds carbon and fiber to the pile.

Why should you compost?

Here are my top reasons for composting and why you should do it too.

  • It’s great for the garden.
  • It adds nutrition to your veggies
  • It will help your garden flourish
  • It takes away the odors in your garbage bin.
  • You wind up with less garbage in landfills
  • It’s environmentally friendly and gives more nutrients back to the earth.
  • It’s organic!
  • It’s green!
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How do you get started?

You don’t need to buy any fancy compost bins, honestly, you can just bury your food scraps in the yard if you want, eventually they will break down and become rich soil. If you just wanted to get a small round of chicken wire and place it somewhere in your yard – voila! compost bin! The only downside of this would be that it might attract rodents. Compost bins aren’t terribly expensive but you can also find a good deal on Amazon or eBay.com

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My compost bin that was left by the previous owners. I relocated it to a space near my deck and started filling it up!

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Pretty kitchen garbage. It will only look this pretty for a little while.

If you do want to compost faster you could purchase a compost tumbler. I’ve had my eye on this one.

For more information, here is a link from one of my favorite gardeners, John Kohler, and how he composts. How to compost the easy way.

If everyone composted, can you imagine how rich our soil would be?

Can you imagine what we could give back to the earth?

Master Bedroom – Renovation Realities

The master bedroom is huge. A very long, wide room with windows to the outside, and even  interior windows overlooking the great room. The walls and ceiling had a cream color paint accented with brown crown molding and window trim. On the wall with the outside windows, we have a nice half wall of light gray brick veneers mortared to the wall. The whole room was just plain old.

We decided that on Labor Day weekend 2014 we would start the project- Friday to Monday. Four days of working around the clock.

If you are attempting to cover a wall with wainscoting, a nail gun is the way to go. This made our efforts so much easier.

The whole project cost us about $2000 and included all of the following materials purchased

– Paint (6 gallons)

-Misc painting items (tape, rollers, brushes, etc)

– Plastic Sheeting

-Two floating shelves

– 2 Bathroom fans

– Wood and trim for wainscoting

– two lighting fixtures

– several outlets, switches, and covers

– New hardware for windows

– Bolts for new bed frame

– Decorative mirror for bathroom

– New lighting fixture for Bathroom

– Wire shelving for closet

– Chandelier for closet

-Door handles

-Decorative baskets for closet organization

 

It took a total of 4 days to complete this project. Each day we would each tackle different projects making this a smooth renovation.

 

This photo was taken with the previous owners of the house. You can see the dark wood trim everywhere, cream walls, and ugly brick.

This photo was taken with the previous owners of the house. You can see the dark wood trim everywhere, cream walls, and ugly brick.

 

Moved everything out of the room and laid a tarp.

Moved everything out of the room and laid a tarp.

 

Started to paint! Walls, trim, and ceiling.

Started to paint! Walls, trim, and ceiling.

Other side of the room- bathroom and closet space

Other side of the room- bathroom and closet space

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Our room overlooks the great room (living room) there are decorative windows that fill in those spaces that we had to paint from dark brown to bright white.

Painting the decorative windows white in the garage.

Painting the decorative windows white in the garage.

Stocked up on all the wainscoting materials. Hint- A yoga mat on the roof of your car to prevent scratches is a great idea.

Stocked up on all the wainscoting materials. Hint- A yoga mat on the roof of your car to prevent scratches is a great idea.

Wainscoting time! We also added a beautiful framed trim to the windows to make them more grand

Wainscoting time! We also added a beautiful framed trim to the windows to make them more grand

Added the panels.

Added the panels.

End of day 3- put the first coat of white on the wainscoting and did a little clean up.

Final indoor windows

Final indoor windows

Added the window treatments

Added the window treatments

...very grand window treatments from the Martha Stewart collection at Home Depot

…very grand window treatments from the Martha Stewart collection at Home Depot

$2000 headboard we found on sale at Macy's for $200.

$2000 king headboard we found on sale at Macy’s for $200.

Lots and lots of pillows

Lots and lots of pillows

New bathroom shelving, mirror, lights. Freshly painted walls and ceiling.

New bathroom shelving, mirror, lights. Freshly painted walls and ceiling.

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Closet chandelier from The Home Depot.

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Decorative baskets from At Home (formerly Garden Ridge) which has household items at great prices.

Hallway from bedroom to the bath/closet suite. We put hooks up along with our laundry hampers. Also, we repainted the doors white.

Hallway from bedroom to the bath/closet suite. We put hooks up along with our laundry hampers. Also, we repainted the doors white.

And there it is. Four days, $2k, and some muscle soreness. The first few nights we woke up in our new room it was unbelievable. I highly recommend a little DIY home renovation. Not only is it nice to live in a wonderful home, but it also severely increases the home value.

Curb Appeal

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Before

We began our home renovations by increasing the curb appeal of our house. I love the look of the white picket fence leading to our front door, but everything behind it looked old and overgrown.

We removed the ugly storm door from the front door, painted the door bright red with a bright white frame, and purchased a new fancy door handle. We also replaced the doorbell with a new fancy button. For some decoration, we added our monogrammed door mat with rubber frame and some planters.

Door Handle– The Home Depot – $134

Paint – The Home Depot – $30

Door Mat – Bed Bath & Beyond $40 (bridal shower gift)

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The ‘Cave Canem’ sign we purchased in Italy on our honeymoon, it’s an ancient Latin ‘Beware of Dog’ sign. I think they are adorable next to the front door. It adds whimsy charm without overdoing it (which is why we only added one) plus it carries the blue from the hydrangea flowers when they are in full bloom. After a bad storm, the ‘Attenti al Cane’ (same thing in Italian) ceramic sign broke – nothing a little gorilla glue can’t fix!

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We also redid the planters by the front door a few months later. In the ‘Before’ picture above, you can see through the fence that the brush is taking over the walkway to the front door. The planters were rounded wood logs laid down against the concrete – not pretty. There were tree branches growing out of an old tree stump.

The stump was difficult to remove so we left it but manicured the branches it so it looks like a nice bush and you can’t even see the stump anymore. We purchased brick edging stones from THD for $1.39 each and even topped them off with the matching flat stones. Planted a blue hydrangea (my favorite!), topped it with mulch, and strategically placed solar lights. Perfect! This project took about 4 hours and cost less than $150. I bet you could do the same with a different type of brick or just one layer of brick, but we wanted the edge of the bricks to be flush with the porch (since there is a step up).

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After

One year after we did this project,  the mulch really did do it’s job as we don’t have any weeds growing and the hydrangea grew 3x the size it originally was. The tree/bush is now very tall and provides a little more shade to that space – perfect for the hydrangea to flourish.

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We also did the same thing to the planter in front of the windows. Now the whole entry way looks fresh and new. This project cost less since we had some leftover bricks. – it took us about 2hrs and was less than $100.

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Curb Appeal Project Done

 

Rescue Me

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I am a dog person. I’ve always loved animals but didn’t know how much support, affection, and love they could provide until this little polka-dot come into my life. I now absolutely believe that there is nothing in the world like the love a dog can give.

My family never had big dogs growing up and frankly, I was a bit scared of them. I think this was something my parents instilled upon me as a child. Several of my extended family members had Rottweilers they weren’t the most friendly dogs and in an effort to protect us, my parents wound up making me nervous around larger dogs. So naturally my last semester in college I got a Pit Bull.

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 My boyfriend at the time (now husband) and I had been dating about 6 months when a friend of his found this little 6 month old Pit Bull walking in the forest with no collar. After putting up “Dog Found” signs and scanning for a microchip, little miss polka-dot needed a home and a family.  If you did the math, she was most likely born when we started dating.

We had not been planning on getting a dog, after all, our relationship was new and exciting. Taking Marley home was the best thing that happened to us. She taught me how to really connect, taught me that no matter what, I am her #1, that when I come home, it is the most joyous occasion, and when we go to bed, well, she is my personal space heater and snuggle-bug.

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The night we brought her home, we stopped by Petsmart and bought the essentials – always one of the most fun shopping trips to make. She sat on my lap on the way back to the city and when we got her home, it was bath time.

Our first photo on the night we brought her home.

Our first photo on the night we brought her home.

I am so grateful that I took pictures of her first night with us because she didn’t stay small for long. J tucked her in a blanket on the couch and now forever this dog will always “ask” (paw dramatically until you understand) to be tucked in under the blanket.

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was probably living in the forest rummaging around for food hoping to find something or someone. She had no shelter and was blind in one eye. We rescued her from that. She still thanks us with her unconditional love.

I moved into J’s apartment in Lakeview 2 blocks between Lake Michigan and Wrigley Field. We had an enclosed courtyard in front and Marley LOVED it. One by one our neighbors came out of their caves and decided to join us with their pups. Before we knew it, we were having dog parties and using this as an excuse to drink beer and socialize with the neighbors we’ve had for years but never exchanged more than a greeting. Little did we know, it was great for Marley to exercise and get very comfortable around people and dogs.

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Marley wasn’t always the perfect dog. She was named Marley after the Jennifer Aniston & Luke Wilson movie Marley and Me. There were so many similarities between the movie and our life that we knew her name instantly.

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When we left her out, things would be destroyed – including my first pair of Uggs. Decorative dried flowers became smashed and shredded potpourri ground into the rug and the old hardwood. Pillows… oh come on- They ARE toys, right? We soon had the brilliant idea to lock her in the bathroom instead of buying a kennel. One new hair straightener later.. we now know to clear the bathroom of EVERYTHING before locking her up. Yes that includes the toilet paper because THAT is definitely a toy. So what does she decide to do – turn on the shower full blast towards the H…  We get home and open the door… the air was thick and so foggy we couldn’t even see her at first. Luckily nothing overflowed and more importantly, she was okay.

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I think she learned her lesson, slowly but surely. J and I trained her after watching several episodes of Caesar Milan’s Dog Whisperer. We heard that Pit Bulls mellow out when they reach 4 years old, and sure enough that was true. Now she is 6 and sleeps 23hours a day. I’ve even trained her to stay on the couch when I come home and I go and pet her for awhile. It’s a moment out of the day where I dedicate myself completely to her. Some say dogs are just animals and they cannot connect with humans, that is just not true.

She has been with us from the beginning. My Marley rescued me. We have a special connection. My dogs are my kids. She is perfect.

Finding Our House

Endless searching for a place to call home. Not just any home, but our starter home. It’s funny how the houses in our price range don’t seem to match my pinterest boards.

We visit them.

Tiny. Old. Smelly. Zero curbside appeal. Botched laminate faux wood floors. Where did all the bathrooms go? Why are the bedrooms so tiny? Is that a stove/microwave combined into one fridge sized 1970’s unit?

Finally we land upon a beautiful, newer starter home with the ‘open’ feel. Carpet is weird but neutral. Trim is brown, but can be painted. Random hooks hanging from the ceiling in every room extending chains attached to planters – yes odd, yet removable. 4 bedrooms, (that’s 3 extra!!), 3 bathrooms (You mean I don’t have to share?) and a huge fenced in yard! Overgrown? Yes, but manageable. This house has potential to be our perfect starter home. Just minor DIY projects to do.

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We closed on our house 3 months before our wedding. Yes we are crazy. Everything for the wedding was due around that time and I was going to and from work with a binder full of wedding and house contracts. It was wedding/house 24/7. Emails just wouldn’t stop. I may have even had one week while at work I didn’t, well, couldn’t do an ounce of work.

For over a year we did small home renovation projects around the house. We started by making a towel rack. Simple and cute. We bought the hooks from Home Depot and painted a 1×6 wood board stark white. A simple project. It brought so much pride.

Now we nearly have the entire house completed and I am learning that we are lacking on the storage space and cabinet space. I want a new home.

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Sometimes, it is hard to see the beauty in what you have when you constantly dream bigger. I know one day we will have the pinterest house of our dreams. Giant garage with a loft for the gear-head husband, massive kitchen with a center island, and so much closet space that I can have every piece of fashion jewelry organized in nice velvet lined drawers, an overhanging room between the house and garage where the play room for the kids will be. Filled with toys for them to use their imagination. Windows on both walls and a door to Daddy’s garage loft overlooking the car port… yes I have thought about this a time or two.

For now, I am happy.

Welcome to Life As A Suburban Housewife

Ever since I moved to the suburbs from Chicago, life seems subdued – but in a good way. I love the endless parking, large backyards, farmers markets, light traffic, and endless forest preserves. It is more peaceful and serene than what we were used to. While in the ‘burbs it is unusual to hear the familiar background noise of horns honking, ambulances flying by, and police sirens, that you get used to while spending 7 years in the city.

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The view from our roof.

Living in Chicago was amazing. So many memories and fun times. My only complaint was when we moved to Logan Square. Logan itself is awesome, however, we were more concerned with a kick-ass apartment than location so we wound up a few blocks away from the cool hipster area and deep into the gangster area. We had the top floor of a 3-flat with every appliance brand new, newly built, a rooftop deck overlooking the city skyline – yep from the Hancock to the Sears (yes, the Sears, I don’t know if Willis will ever feel right) casting a magical backdrop upon our moonlit sky. So why would I move? What a great place to have! Along with the awesome place, we were in a terrible neighborhood.

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Marley soaking up the rays on our front porch

Not like the South Side “Chiraq” as some call it, not that bad, but somewhere in between. In Chicago you could live in the nicest area and two blocks away is a nasty part of town. Unfortunately that’s where we were located. I was scared to go outside at night (ok fine, during the day too), terrified of the people who walked past our front gates. I never thought I would call 911 as much as we did. My beautiful brand new car was broken into, trespassers on our roof at 1am on a Tuesday night, old bullet holes on the house behind ours, copper pipes stolen out of the house next door, and no, they didn’t turn the water main off first. After the owners of the 3-flat secretly foreclosed on the building, we were gifted with the surprise of reams of legal papers citing all of the tenants names – prompting our searching for a new place and we were tired of throwing money out the window in rent. We wanted to invest in our future and become homeowners – one goal of mine I thought was still so far away.

180161_718863589641_3033014_nAnxiety and worry flew out of the moving truck as soon as it hit the highway. Hello new house, vast overgrown garden, rusty basketball hoop, gated fence, and new neighbors (all of whom are at least 20 years older than us).

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No one ever tells you that when you buy your first home and move out to the suburbs that it is not like an episode of Cougartown where you meet your best friends, hang out drinking wine, and call yourself the ‘cul-de-sac crew’ or Modern Family where every day is a new funny adventure and everyone is at home in a perfectly clean and gorgeous house. In my mind I had assumed it would be like a 1950’s scene where you go to the mail box and the neighbors are watering their lawns, riding bikes, and picking up their parcels. A social scene where you go to your neighbors house for dinner or afternoon tea. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Welcome to homeownership, trading rent for mortgage payments, marriage, DIY renovations, gardening, cooking, fitness, cleaning, filling an empty new house, decorating, etc.

Welcome to Life as a Suburban Housewife.