Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sing me a song, piano man

Earlier this week we got a very exciting delivery for our living room...


...a player piano!

The piano belonged to Branden's grandmother and she passed it down to him. For years it sat at his dad's house, since he had no place for it to go. It finally made its way to the house and now fits perfectly in a corner of our living room!


It really classes up the joint. We used to have a desk with a computer over in that corner. Since we got a new laptop, we moved the computer up to the desk in the now-empty office (since I no longer work from home the office wasn't getting much use anymore).

I start grad school next week (yup, I'm getting a Masters of Education in Secondary English... not sure if I'm ready to write papers again but here goes nothing!) so I'll be using the computer in the quiet office to do homework very frequently, I'm sure.

I'm kind of amazed by how well the piano fits in the living room... it's almost made for it!


While it's a little out of tune, it's definitely still able to played. Branden has been working on the mechanics for the player part (you can see the tools in the shot above) and it's almost working 100%. For now, you have to stick some tweezers into the tape deck to keep it playing. :)


I'll have to take a video of the player piano in action and post it... we've been playing a tape of ragtime favorites and I'm pretty sure that the neighbors think we're operating a speakeasy. It sounds like a saloon up in here.

It's always refreshing to do a little reshuffling of furniture. To free up some space next to the piano, we swapped out an end table with one from the dining room and rearranged the table in that room (I'll post some pics of that soon). It's amazing what switching some things around can do to make a room feel fresh.

We also picked up a new pair of table lamps a month or so ago at Homegoods. They were only $30 each, with the lampshades. Love them!


They kind of remind me of spinal cords... in a good way? Each level has a pinkish/red ring painted around it, which matches the couch perfectly. It alllll comes together.


Lucy likes the new lamps, obvs.

Back to the piano, when I sat down at it I definitely needed some time to remember which keys were which. I hadn't looked at sheet music since I graduated college, so I was a little rusty! It's amazing how it all comes back to you though after just a few minutes of playing.

I'm really loving having it in the house, and find myself sitting down to practice for a bit each day. Maybe by Christmas I'll be able to play carols and we can all sing around the piano like in Little Women!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

kitchen planning

As I mentioned earlier, we've started planning our kitchen renovation in earnest now. Before we start demolishing the current kitchen, we need to finish the laundry room in our basement and reroute the hookup for our dryer (which currently lives in the mudroom off of the kitchen). The laundry room is almost completely finished now--we just have to prime and paint one more wall and install some partition doors--and the electrician will be coming next week to set up the dryer. After that we'll be all set and ready to get moving on this new kitchen!

Here is the floorplan of the kitchen, as it currently stands:


It functions very poorly. The stove is situated between two doorways, with no countertop on either side. The fridge is on the other side of the room, again with no nearby countertop for setting things down.

Our plan is to knock down the wall between the kitchen and mudroom and expand the kitchen into that whole space.

We've come up with two options so far for the kitchen layout.

Option #1:


In this option, the area where the fridge currently is will become a breakfast nook. We'd love to have a built-in banquette here, which is what those benches represent in the floor plan.

Here are some more views of Option #1:




I would love to have a vintage farmhouse table that can also be used as extra prep space. Option #1 would be the most open and airy.

Option #2, however, would include adding a half bathroom. Our house only has one bathroom currently, and it's located upstairs. Adding a second bathroom, on the main floor, would be so much more convenient and would definitely add value.

Here's the floorplan for Option #2:


The half bathroom would be added in place of the breakfast nook in Option #1.

Some alternate views of Option #2:



This option would make the kitchen less open, but having a half bathroom on the main floor would be a huge improvement.

Both options have their benefits, so we have a tough choice ahead! I'll post some pictures of the finished laundry room soon!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Green thumbs and blue hydrangeas

The last couple of weeks, we've continued work on the front gardens. There's been lots of weeding, raking, shoveling dirt, spreading dirt, digging holes, planting, packing dirt, watering, mulching... you get the picture. It's dirty and tiring work, but I've found that I actually enjoy it a lot.

One of my favorite flowers is the blue hydrangea. I love the giant clumps of bright blue blooms that I see all in front of people's homes all summer.

Usually, the hydrangea bushes I see are 4 or 5 feet high, with flowers practically pouring out of the foliage.
Because I love them so much, I bought three blue hydrangea bushes for the new garden bed in the front of the house.


Now, because I couldn't conceivably spend $80 on each 4-foot high bush (!), I had to instead spend $30 on three much smaller, 2-foot high bushes.


I know, I know. They're pretty dinky right now. I just hope that they fill out and grow. And who knows, in 10 years they may end up as high as the porch and be the envy of the neighborhood. Gotta start somewhere, I suppose!

We also snagged a few phlox plants for in between the bushes. Phlox is a ground covering perennial, so the idea is they'll expand over time. We're going to pick up a few more to continue them down the rest of the garden.

We still have to mulch this front garden. We also need to finish laying the edger stones around the curved corner. You can see where we've laid some grass seed as well in front. Since the size of the new garden is smaller than what was there before, we're hoping to get some grass growing in that dirt.


Behind the hydrangea bushes, closest to the porch, we want to plant a row of taller boxwoods. This will give us some greenery year-round, and will be relatively easy to maintain. Just some trimming to keep their shape. Plus it will create a nice tiered effect, with a row of boxwoods, stepping down to the hydrangeas, and then down to flowers at ground level.

In the side garden, the planting is finished for now and we've got everything mulched.


We planted some more phlox, along with one azalea bush in each bed.


The bush towards the forefront that looks like it's dead is a dormant blue hydrangea that's just beginning to bud. This one I purchased at a local greenhouse (and spent a bit more on it)... it's guaranteed to bloom continuously through late summer. I'm curious to see how this particular variety does compared to the three in the front of the house.

The lower garden has an azalea bush flanked by a couple more phlox.


I'm looking forward to seeing how these plants last through the season. I'm going to keep an eye out for some summer and early fall bloomers to add to the gardens, so that there is something flowering all the time.

In other house news, after discovering some major wood rot in one of our kitchen windowsills, the time has seriously come to begin moving forward with our complete kitchen renovation. I'm already overwhelmed by the thought of how complicated (and expensive!!) this reno is going to be. For now we're stuck with the incredibly fun task of researching contractors and comparing bids... I'll post more on the details soon!