Posted on Leave a comment

Get the Look: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday – it’s sandwiched between two holidays that feature LOTS of decorations. So, if you are looking for a way to decorate for Thanksgiving, this is your stop.

Thanksgiving Decor Must-Haves

Whether or not you are hosting this year, you can still celebrate the fall and Thanksgiving with table-top decor and elegant outside decor.

Tablescapes:

Centerpieces

The turkey might get the prize spot as the centerpiece on the big day, but until then, fill that space with a beautiful flower centerpiece. Fill your vase with orange, red, and yellow flowers. The orange Tiger Lily, red Gerbera Daisy, and traditional yellow Sunflower are beautiful examples.

In addition to using flowers and vases for a centerpiece, show off your favorite fall -scented candle on a trivet.


Table Runner

If you aren’t one to have a table cloth on your dining table on a regular basis (also a great way to decorate, btw!), spruce up the look of your table with a table runner.

These are great because they can add a pop of color, are often themed, and come in a variety of sizes. You can get fancy or keep it simple. If you are in a real pinch, find some fall-themed fabric and fold it nicely to sit on the table!


Wall Hangings

Change out your wall hangings with each holiday. Command strips are awesome for this purpose, since you can hang out regularly and not do any serious damage to your walls.


person holding two orange pumpkins

Mini Pumpkins and Gourds

Real or artificial, mini pumpkins and gourds bring home the harvest focus of Thanksgiving decor.

Outdoors:

Halloween decor ideas

Mums

Chrysanthemums, or Mums, are a classic fall flower. They are native to East Asia and northeastern Europe. They come in a large variety of shades from pink and purple to white and red.

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of the deep red, orange, and pink (yellow remind me of dandelions!).

If you are apt to buy your mums early, make sure that most of the buds are still closed up at the time of purchase so you can have blooms throughout the entire fall season. Trust me, it’s worth the wait!


Halloween decor ideas

Large Pumpkins & Gourds

The variety of pumpkins and gourds at this time of year is utterly amazing. There is a color of gourd to match any color of Mum.

Looking for an orange themed porch? Pumpkins! Yellow theme? Crookneck squash! Pink? Moranga squash – aka the pink pumpkin.

Share with Friends
Get more in your inbox – Click here
Posted on Leave a comment

Get the Look: Halloween

jack o lantern on a wooden bench

Halloween is my favorite holiday and it’s during my favorite season. Here are some great ways to decorate your home for Halloween with that farmhouse chic look. Check out the list below for some Halloween decor ideas:

Halloween Decor Ideas : Outside Edition

This is where your neighbors, passersby, and trick-or-treaters will get to see how much you are into the Halloween season. These five elements are key for any front porch.

Halloween decor ideas

Mums

Chrysanthemums, or Mums, are a classic fall flower. They are native to East Asia and northeastern Europe. They come in a large variety of shades from pink and purple to white and red.

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of the deep red, orange, and pink (yellow remind me of dandelions!).

If you are apt to buy your mums early, make sure that most of the buds are still closed up at the time of purchase so you can have blooms throughout the entire fall season. Trust me, it’s worth the wait!


Halloween decor ideas

Pumpkins & Gourds

The variety of pumpkins and gourds at this time of year is utterly amazing. There is a color of gourd to match any color of Mum.

Looking for an orange themed porch? Pumpkins! Yellow theme? Crookneck squash! Pink? Moranga squash – aka the pink pumpkin.

Halloween decor ideas

Artificial Pumpkins

Not interested in a moldy lump half eaten by squirrels? Looking for something that will last a but longer? Get creative with your pumpkin decorations both inside and out! These porch pumpkins are made from wood, painted and sealed to last you much longer than any traditional pumpkin. Yeah, those are a must, but use these too for a little variety on your steps.


Halloween decor ideas

Skinny Black Cats

They may get a bad rap, but Halloween is incomplete without black cats as part of your decorations.

Why do we view these little furballs as suspicious? We can blame the Pilgrims; more specifically the Puritans. As in our friends who lived in Salem and the hosts of the witch trials. The actively persecuted black cats right alongside the men and women suspected of witchcraft.

Add these cute skinny black cats to your front porch.

Halloween decor ideas

Black Cat Bums

In addition to the super sweet skinny black cats, your front porch will be even cuter with these black cat bums. The tiny feet are the perfect blend of spooky and adorable. They are a little bit of a different take on your traditional Halloween black cats.


Welcome Boards

Get creative with your fall welcome! Using a welcome board is a great way to mark the change in seasons and the holidays within them.

What better way to say welcome than with a sign featuring a pumpkin in the “O”.

These signs are great because they are made from light pine and are 48″ tall, making them very easy to store in between seasons. It’s one of the fastest and easiest ways to up your porch decor game!


Share with Friends
Posted on 1 Comment

DIY Garden Bed

Looking to up your gardening game this summer? Cedar garden beds are the way to go – and they can be easy to create and pretty affordable. Step away from the fancy kit and build your own in a day – for a lot less. Let’s DIY a garden bed!

Up close image of the garden dirt
Watch out for surprise roots!

Our backyard is a pretty steep hill. But it’s also the sunniest spot in the summer and our veggies grow best up there. I discovered this by accident last summer when a mystery squash started growing like crazy on the hill. I already planted some potatoes and carrots before I had the idea to build a terraced cedar garden bed into the hill.

Supplies

Head over to your local home store and pick up some cedar fence pickets. There is a reason why people use cedar for fences – they are durable, last a long time, and are rot-resistant. Thus making them ideal for garden beds.

Grab some wooden garden stakes while you are there, too.

In terms of tools, you’ll need a shovel, mallet, circular saw, tape measure, level, and nail gun (or any tool that can join two pieces of wood, e.g, screwdriver, drill, or hammer)

Prep

I wasn’t looking to make anything particularly fancy. It was a Sunday morning and I had a lot of other jobs to do. Cedar fence pickets are ideal also because they come in 6 foot lengths. That seemed like a reasonable width to my garden bed.

I started out by deciding where my very first board would go. Keeping things simple, I went with a 3 foot depth for the beds. Gearing up to dig, I measured out 3 feet up hill and started digging until I was close to level with my starting point. Once I had dug out most of the soil, I started to check for level. I wasn’t looking for a perfect level, but I also didn’t want to have any major sloping.

Then, I repeated this step for the next tier until I had a rough area to work in. Next, I stacked two boards and checked to make sure they lined up with the next tier. This became the rear retaining wall of the bed.

Build

Here’s where I started to work with the wood. I took the two retaining wall boards and placed them on my work surface. Using the nail gun, I affixed two garden stakes to the back of the boards. This was to join them together and give the wall something to grab the earth below it.

Two boards joined together
The back retaining wall

I then proceeded to hammer them into the ground and checked for level.

Checking for level.
Love it when it finally levels.

It was a quick job to measure out the halfway mark on the board to cut the sides of the bed. For the sides of the beds, I only used one row of boards. I cut the additional garden stakes down into shorter lengths and nailed one to each end of the 3 foot board.

When I installed the 3 foot boards, I hammered them level and then nailed the front board to the garden stake that was already nailed to the 3 foot board.

Attaching the boards to each other
This adds stability and keeps everything together.

And just like that I had made two tiered garden beds before lunch! Make sure that you line the bottom with weed barrier and bring in some compost and soil for your beds. Enjoy your beautiful garden and impress your friends with a DIY garden bed.

Almost finished product
Just about finished

Because I use our own compost, I will be letting this bed do it’s own thing this season. I am sure some mystery plants will pop up!

Posted on Leave a comment

A Good Old Fashioned Tree Planting

green leaf plant on brown soil

Happy Arbor Day! Let’s do some tree planting.

Ever since I was a kid, I make a point to plant a tree on Earth Day. This year, my order of trees and shrubs from the Albany County Soil and Water Conservation District wasn’t ready until the day after.

We live on an acre of land with a lot of older trees that are planted in soil, so they are big and they are leaning. Slowly we have to take them down before they fall down (and we’ve had that happen a few times over the past 6 years).

BUT! we never cut down a tree before making a point of planting or replanting multiple trees. I am really excited about this year’s haul!

Let’s get started!

We’ve got 2 types of cherry, 2 apples, 5 sugar maples, lilacs, and elderberry. The ACSWCD makes a point of selling seedlings, saplings, and bulbs that are all native to the area and are designed to help the immediate area, not just to serve as decoration.

Photo of tree saplings in bundles before planting.
Quite the haul!

I got straight to work planting them, as I didn’t want to have them sitting around any longer than necessary. It’s important to take a moment and plan out where you want your new plants; keep in mind some of them require certain spacing in between (e.g., elderberry needs good airflow) or specifically near other similar species (e.g., the fruit trees in order to promote pollination and fruit production).

We chose the elderberry to provide some privacy, especially in the winter when our Autumn Olive shrubs drop their leaves. And since we got rid of the ugly chain link fence last year, this is a necessity.

Photo of Elderberry seedling
The elderberry is hard to see right now, but it’s the plant that looks like a skinny stick coming out of the ground.
Photo of the street at the top of the hill.
Right now you can see straight up the hill to the road.
Photo of Arbor Vitae and Sugar Maple
Last year’s small Arbor Vitae and a Sugar Maple.

Spacing in general is an important concept, especially with shrubs like Arbor Vitae – it may be tempting to plant them close together, but remember, they will grow and fill out. Overcrowding will make pruning more challenging and might actually cause “bald” spots.

A row of baby lilac bushes
Lilacs spaced out to ensure plenty of room as they grown and mature.

As always, make sure you are watering daily and deeply to encourage wide and deep root growth. Good luck and happy planting!

Tree frog
Ribbit!
Posted on 1 Comment

Building the Fire Pit, the Fire Pit Adventure Part 5

We are finally at the pièce de résistance, time to build the DIY fire pit. While the patio might require more skill and patience than the average homeowner may posses (although everyone is capable!) the fire pit itself is easily achievable by anyone.

The Stones

I chose these stones from Home Depot. I am a fan of the tumbled look and because of the shape, they easily form a circle. These were also an affordable option; if you are looking to just make a pit, these stones are a good option to make a professional-looking fire pit for under $100.

If you recall, early on in the project I dug down about a shovel’s depth into the ground. I added gravel to help with drainage. If you find that you have a more dense soil, such as clay, I recommend a few inches of gravel to help with drainage.

Fill the pit with gravel for drainage

In addition to your choice of stone for the pit, you’ll need to grab some construction adhesive. I bought this Loctite brand, but after I ran out I found some more in the house, but actually in the right color this time. Make sure you pay attention to the color listed on the bottle; I didn’t and I bought white – and the stones are gray.

The Build

Start out by laying out your first row; take the time to level the stones out as best you can. If you are using even bricks, this will help keep everything level as you work up. Tumbled bricks will make it a little more of a challenge to be perfectly level, but it works well enough.

Level out the bottom row

After laying out your first row, dry fit your next row. Lay each brick on the joint between two bricks of the row below. This helps to keep the wall of bricks strong. Dry fitting the bricks is a good way to be sure that you have enough bricks (hint: I didn’t do this on my last row and I was short 4 bricks).

This is the color I should have gotten the first time around.

Use a healthy amount of the construction adhesive and let the bricks sit for a bit before poking at the bricks. Once everything has set, you will find that the bricks are pretty immovable.

Dry fitting the next row

The Liner

I decided to line the inside of my fire pit with a galvanized fire pit ring. For some reason these are ridiculously expensive at most home improvement stores. I did a quick Google search and I found this one at Ocean State Job Lot for about a third of the price.

My DIY fire pit is a bit of an odd size and not a perfect circle, either. A second lesson I learned in this part of the process: perhaps use the liner as a template for your circle. To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to use a liner, so it was a last minute decision. To make the liner fit, I assembled the four pieces together, but I overlapped the final joint.

Happy campfire season!

I decided to fancy it up a bit with 6 bags of black river rocks and boom, hot dogs for dinner tonight!

Posted on 2 Comments

Set in Stone – the Fire Pit Adventure, Part 4

Creating a diy paver patio is the newest learning experience for me as a Weekend Warrior. I’ve seen it enough times on Ask This Old House and YouTube, but this was the final exam. And let me share with you what I did right and what I did wrong.

Close up view of the paver joints in a diy paver patio.
The concrete sand base came up too high in some sections. Lesson number one.Close

Lesson One

Choosing the stones and laying them out was the easy part. But there is one thing I wish I paid a little more attention to during this stage – keep the joints free and clear and at least half an inch to an inch deep. This would be important to the success of my paver set. More on that in a minute.

After making sure everything is nice and level, I brought out my polymeric sand. This is key in a diy paver patio. I was pretty intimidated by this product at first. It’s basically designed to act like a grout, joining the pavers together and binding them in place. Short of masonry mud, this is going to keep everything together – so no pressure.

I went with the gray to blend in, but it comes in other colors.

Lesson Two

I initially started out with just two 40-pound boxes, but four were ultimately necessary. And in all honesty, here is the second lesson: don’t skimp on the polymeric sand. Having some depth in the joints is key to a good, solid set.

The instructions are simple enough, clean the work space, dump the sand, push broom it into place, tidy it up, and water it like your lawn. The water is what jump starts the binding agent. It takes about a day or two to set. It’s important to follow the instructions specific to the brand you buy.

Using a push broom to get the paver set into the joints between the stones.
Pushing the sand into the joints.
Applying water to set the polymeric sand
Growing a patio this spring.

Lesson Three

And here is lesson number three; the instructions on my brand specified using a leaf blower to clear out dust and debris in the work space. I wish I had been a little more aggressive with the leaf blower to help clear out those joints.

Up close of the broken sand joint. The lessons of a diy patio.
In the places where the sand was too thin, it flaked right up.

I ultimately had to go through some spots, dig out the paver set that was too thin and re-do some sections. I made sure to have at least an inch of depth between those joints and I filled them generously. To be as efficient as possible, I recommend using a funnel to get the sand right into the joints, where needed.

If you have the ability to rent or buy a compactor to vibrate the sand into the crevices, definitely use that. Otherwise, plan to tap on every paver to make sure that the sand gets into every area around the stone.

It was really exciting to water the stones and check the progress the next day. Even with a few mistakes, it’s coming together really well! I’m thrilled that I am done with the diy paver patio portion. Come back next week for the final part of my adventure with the fire pit. See you soon!

Posted on 2 Comments

Bringing in the Flagstones – The Fire Pit Adventure, Part 3

This was the exciting week – the patio pavers arrive! There was a lot of hand-wringing on my part when it came to picking the patio materials. I am the type of person that must love an item before purchasing, no matter what.

As you recall, last week I wrote about making an un-level patch of land level-ish. It was exhausting. But figuring out exactly what I could buy that met my expectations was a bit of a challenge.

I went back and forth in my mind between going for a rustic, natural look or a crisp, polished look. In the end, I knew that the outdoorsy, natural look was the way to go. And that meant flagstones over brick.

I was quite sore after this particular day.

If money were no object, I would have gladly purchased a few pallets of the gigantic flagstones at my local Ace Hardware. But I didn’t think spending $2,100 on a patio was a good idea. So, plan B.

The first batch of flagstones were decent-sized, about 2 feet at max length. Some were pretty heavy. The ultimate challenge with flagstones is making the space level. While I did a fairly decent job of leveling out my surface beforehand, it basically meant nothing because each and every flagstone is of varying thickness and texture. As a result, one corner of the area (near the hole, of course) required quite a LOT of pavers base (upwards of 6″), while the opposite corner required the bare minimum of 1″.

My three tools were a one-foot level, a four-foot level, and a rubber mallet. Each tool had a specific use; when installing the pavers, not long did I have to make sure that the entire surface area was level, but each stone was level in multiple directions.

Levels come in a lot of sizes, the most important is to have a fairly long and short level for this project.

To make things a little easier, I started with the largest stones around the circle where the fire pit will be. Making these all level to one stone set me up for the rest of the pavers.

This was the last easy part.

Definitely a painstaking process; picking a stone, leveling the stone to the nearest level stone, and then confirming that the whole piece was level.

Rain put me off for a few days, and either because of the rain or because I just didn’t notice before, but one whole section was completely sloping and I had to pull out great pieces of the patio to repair it. The sooner I can get the paver set in, the better!

You can see the larger pavers in their places in the background.

After setting the largest stones, I had another batch of pavers brought in by a friend and started filling in the gaps to try and bring the spaces down to no more than 1.25″.

Up close view of the paver design
My daughter was able to contribute to this part, looking for smaller stones.

Hopefully the ground will be dry-ish by Sunday so I can begin the paver set process. Stay tuned!

Posted on 4 Comments

Un-making Waves – The Fire Pit Adventure, Part 2

Wow, I can’t even begin to describe to you the geography of the far part of our backyard. Wavy. Really, really wavy.

If you caught my Instagram story from a little while ago, I took folks on a tour of our undulating backyard. The fact of the matter is, the entire far part of the property was filled in with wood chips. And those wood chips are decomposing. Fairly rapidly, I’d guess.

a view of the yard where the fire pit will be re-built
It’s hard to tell in the photo, but if you follow across the photo from the base of the tree, that’s the ridge of a hill and a fairly deep hole on the other side.

The original owner of all of the neighborhood land was in the tree business and later in his life he decided to upgrade and build a larger, more modern house on his land. That’s our house today. And when he was selling off pieces of his property, he had to raise up some of the land. And what did he have a lot of? Wood chips.

Needless to say, it’s been a challenge to level out the ground. It took me a week to fill this hole!

filling in a hole with topsoil
I thought the hole was 6″ deep, but it was also pretty long. Very deceptive.

With any patio, you’ll need a good base. I used this screened topsoil that we had hauled in from a favorite local vendor. Under normal circumstances where the ground is already made of topsoil or even clay, your base layer would be made of gravel. Already being behind the 8 ball here, I used a lot of topsoil to firm things up instead.

using a tamper to push down the topsoil
So. Much. Tamping.
Using a level to make the ground level
Attempting to level it off.

We’ve got a terrible bittersweet problem in the area, so a weed barrier is a must. Plus I don’t want to have to be pulling up those tiny weeds on my nice, new patio. I am no stranger to weed barrier and I never pay attention to the brand I buy, but this time around I found this one at my local Ace Hardware. It was nifty in that it lightly stuck together to help with the overlap.

spreading out the weed barrier
It looks a mess, but I will be happy I did this later!

Once I had my immediate patio area filled in and covered with weed barrier, I had 2 cubic yards of concrete sand brought in. This is just another layer to help keep things stable, but also to give the pavers something to sit in.

A view of the tamped sand
My triceps are going to be ripped after all this!