review: A well-crafted home

a well-crafted home

A well-crafted home: inspiration and 60 projects for personalizing your space by Janet Crowther

This book is part of the current trend of making decor that will appear to be used or vintage. For many of them, you might be able to find materials at an estate sale or flea market, but you could also use new materials from Home Despot or your local hardware store. Each project is designated with a skill level and includes a finished size, so it’s easy to see at a glance if a particular project will work for both your ability and the space you have in mind. This aesthetic of this book, with matte color photos filled with tone-on-tone shades of cream, and its projects will appeal to fans of the decor on Fixer Upper. I feel like a few of these might actually be things that they’ve done on that show! The textiles used in the sample projects make you wish you could put your hands on them – you can almost feel the linen used to make a pillowcase and duvet. The book closes with instructions for a few of the techniques used, including several types of dyeing, a few ways of sewing seams, basic woodworking techniques, leather cutting, and distressing a mirror for an antique look. Like most books of this type, you may end up spending more on materials than you would buying a pre-made shabby chic item at a big box store, but the goal Crowther espouses is to enjoy the process as much as the product.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books


review: HomeMade Modern

HomeMade Modern

HomeMade Modern: Smart DIY Designs for a Stylish Home by Ben Uyeda

The idea behind this book is that anyone can have beautiful, stylish things in their home without spending a lot of money. Uyeda encourages the reader to make things from other things they already own, in fact, further reducing the amount of purchases required and amping up the sustainability at the same time. A guide is provided for collecting raw materials and making purchases when necessary. Thirty projects are detailed for most rooms in a home: living room, dining room, kitchen, home office, and bedroom, as well as the outdoors. Most projects are in the $50-150 range, assuming you already have the required tools on hand. Some of the projects exceed $200, though, and may make the reader question whether it’s worth it to DIY. All of the items featured showcase the bare wood/metal/concrete aesthetic that seems at home in an urban loft. You can also use a ToolsMaestro pressure washer and spray the outside of your home to clean it up and make it look better.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Kalamazoo Public Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system


pathways and planting beds

I’m still working to put together a plan for what the yard (future gardens) might look like at Firefly Cottage. We have so much space that it’s hard to know where to start! I also know that I’ll change my mind and the plan along the way, but I need something to start from.

Firefly Cottage 2016-03-30

We are getting quotes to redo the front and side pathways (red and blue), so that’s coming along. Those will be poured concrete, and the paths that are marked in grey on this image will be some kind of gravel path that we’ll DIY. I mostly just want some easy ways to get through the yard that won’t be weed-ridden, and some kind of stone seems to be a relatively simple solution.

I’ve added the two existing apple trees we planted last fall (darker green circles) as well as some future fruit trees (medium green) I’d like to plant. I plan to keep all of these fruit trees pruned to a manageable size so we can get at the fruit on the top branches and the trees themselves don’t get too big. Grow a Little Fruit Tree has been an invaluable source for learning about this! There are also light green sections where I’ll do perennial beds. These are a SUPER rough idea of how these will go – I really don’t know what I’m doing with these yet! I think I’ll find some yard accoutrements to accent some of these beds, such as supports for climbers, which might help with focal points. Ideally I’d like to create an overall yard that is filled with garden, has little to no mowable grass, and feels like you’re surrounded by (but not smothered by) plants in that cozy cottage style. I also added a space for two raised beds at the back of the yard. I’m planning to put in one of these this year and wait until the future to add a second one. One is all I want to manage right now but I want to plan ahead for a day when I have more time to devote to veg gardening.


DIY: magnetic door stop

One of the things about an older home is that not all the doors hang just right. The door to our bedroom, for instance, tends to want to close on its own. We’d rather it stay open most of the time to allow for air circulation and so the dogs don’t get inadvertently trapped in there. We also happened to notice that the rubber stopper-end on the door stop was completely worn away, so it was a perfect time to replace it with a magnetic one.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

What a…lovely paint job on this old door stop!

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

Luckily it was easy to install the wall piece as it goes into the baseboard rather than the plaster wall. We still have not figured out how to deal with drilling into the plaster. We need a plaster mentor!

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

It’s pretty easy – you attach this base plate to the wall and then the door stop itself screws on.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

The magnetic piece on the door works much the same way.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

This door piece also has a spring inside, so it has some give when connecting with the door stop.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

Aesthetically it’s not the most stylish door stop, but it does work quite well. Problem solved in about five minutes!


vintage crochet treasures

While we were at my folks’ for xmas, they gifted us a couple of crochet items that they saved from my grandma’s house when they cleaned it out years ago.

crochet cozies from Grandma H.

First, this super adorbs egg cozy made to look like a chicken. How cute is this?! Seriously. I can’t get over how awesome this is. We don’t use egg cozies on the reg, but I will happily keep this lady on display in CraftyTown.

crochet cozies from Grandma H.

Second, this Santa doorknob cozy. I remember this from going to my grandma’s around xmas when I was a kid. It’s so cute, too! I also love that it’s detailed but not at all fussy. Our home, built in 1940, has the original glass doorknobs that my grandma’s house also had, so it seems quite fitting to add this to our holiday decorations.


Things That Are Awesome: Manhattan Nest

There are plenty of home improvement-focused blogs out there, but so many of them are just product/brand-placement in disguise and/or feature such pricey projects and objects that they are completely out of my world. Not so with Manhattan Nest!

Manhattan Nest

This home blog has it all. Manhattan Nest is the story of a DIYer, Daniel, working on his home (and other projects), learning by doing, and putting it all out there – successes AND projects that didn’t go quite as planned. Throughout everything, he provides a hilarious narrative and manages to maintain a positive attitude regardless of what happens.

It’s so refreshing to see a blogger post pictures of their yard when it’s a complete mess, full of weeds and all uneven – EXACTLY like every yard I’ve ever had has started out! Maybe because so many other blogs are heavily sponsored, they’re afraid to post the ugly before pictures? Or the bloggers start out with something professionally landscaped and then just change it up? Well, in the world I live in, we start out with a neglected or at the least imperfect mess – and so does Daniel. And he manages to incorporate sponsors with ease, so it’s not obtrusive at all.

He’s got an immense appreciation for restoring and salvaging historical details BUT he also balances this with a realistic approach. Not every awesome detail can be saved, no matter how much ones loves it, and he provides a ton of examples of situations where he figured something out to preserve the character if not the original materials. He’s also not afraid to do things the way he wants them. Not sure the neighbors will love your black-stained fence, but truly believe it’s the best choice? DO IT.

Most of all, his candor about that feeling one gets partway into a big project – you know the one, where you feel like you have taken on far too much and the idea of it ever being completed or even just salvaged back to a usable state seems impossible? He gets that feeling! And he admits it! And he sees the humor in it, which helps me, as the reader, to feel a bit better when I have that feeling myself.

If all this isn’t enough, he also has adorable dogs. Just go look at any post – you won’t regret it!


let’s get the rock out of here

All the planters around our house were filled at some point with landscaping rocks. Oh, so many landscaping rocks.

The planter on the west side of the front of the house had especially few plants – just a couple of shrub roses planted right on top of one another, and the rest entirely filled with rocks.

Firefly Cottage

Except for the stump from the Arbor Vitae, of course, which we are hoping to have removed when we have a tree crew out to take down the rotted-out old Box Elders. Removing that stump means that we needed to get rid of the rocks so that they’re not in the way. We were planning to ditch them anyway – I prefer living means of weed control (not that the rocks were even very good at that – there were a ton of those horribly spiky dandelions and other weeds poking up from between the rocks) – but this nudged me to get it done sooner.

Front planter de-rocked

Three+ hours later, it’s almost entirely rock-free!


I got a start on the planter on the other side of the front of the house, and there are several planters in the back yard that need the same attention. Of course this means that it’s now officially the hottest part of the year and so humid that I can hardly bring myself to think about doing physical labor outside. It’ll get cooler, though, and I love spending time out in the garden in the fall, so I’ll have plenty of opportunity.


let it go

We continued to help the vines to let go of our house over the weekend. They are tough bastages!

Here’s where we started, more or less (actually more, as this is a photo from several years ago, courtesy of the real estate listing):
realtor 23

And then after we removed the bulk of the vines:
Vine removal day one

Although most of the vines came down pretty easily, there were some areas that were grown very thick with roots grabbing in all directions. These parts are super tough and reluctant to move! We cut through the base of these awhile ago, allowing them to dry out and not be connected to the roots anymore, but they were still pretty difficult to pry off.
vines climbing on house

K put his back into it and I helped as much as I could, and voila! After quite a lot of effort, we have a nook corner free of growth!
More vines removed

There are still some bits higher up that we want to pull down, but we are STILL WAITING for our tall ladder to come in at Home Depot. (It’s been over a month, Home Depot! What UP?) The roof replacement is going to happening late this month, hopefully, so we want to get as much down as we can before that happens so there’s as little stuff in the roofers’ way as possible. We are making progress!



Remember the vine roots I mentioned that had grown along the mortar lines between the bricks? Here’s a fun example:
Roots of this tree formed themselves into the spaces between the bricks.

Looks neat, eh? I’m mostly just happy that it didn’t get INTO the mortar. Our strategy of cutting the stem at any points we could get through it seems to be working – the top of the growth is wilting and dying and the parts that are stuck to the house are getting easier to remove as they dry out.

I believe that I’ve identified the aggressive plants next to the garage as wisteria, so now I need to get that away from the structure. There’s a lot of grape hyacinth and some milkweed growing nearby, though, so I don’t want to lose those. Slowly but slowly, I’m getting a plan together!

Star Trek approval


the Brodie and the pea

This weekend we were putting together my seed starting setup and Brodie was hanging out. We needed space so I put all the dog beds and blankets that were strewn around the basement into one pile, which he then of course climbed up on and snuggled into.

the Brodie and the pea

I don’t think there was any pea underneath, and luckily, no pee, either.