Monday, November 28, 2011

Top-Shelf or (Hand) Rail? Our Homeowner's Insurance Saga

Last month we received a letter from our homeowners insurance company stating that they wouldn't renew our policy because our home wasn't up to code on certain things.  We were shocked to hear that since we had just moved in earlier this year.  What could possibly be wrong?  For one, our back stairs leading into the house didn't have a handrail.  It's only about four steps; however, since it was over 30 inches high, and more than three steps, it requires a handrail.  Because our policy was up at the end of the month, we needed to make sure this got done ASAP.  Justin (with me and Louie's moral support) went on to tackle the making of the handrail.  With some supplies and helpful instructions from our local hardware store, Frager's, Justin was up and running...

Here's Justin sawing the the 2x4's...He basically needed three 2x4's to be sawed to the right length.  Two would be the supporting posts and one would be the actual handrail.

Here's Louie doing his job, making sure the extension cord doesn't get tangled...

Here's Justin drilling holes into specific places in the 2x4's.  He drilled these holes so he could place long screws and bolts into the holds to secure the wood in place.


Here is an up-close shot of the screws and bolts.

And these are the places he put the screws and bolts in.  He also put them where the 2x4s meet the stairs to make sure that it was secure.

Here's the before (with my Redskins hoodie on the doorknob): 

And here's the after:


Here's Justin demonstrating its functionality.  Yay!

I know it's not much to look at, but honestly it's not like we really needed something to hang on to when going up those stairs (being two able-bodied and relatively "young" people).  We basically did it so we could keep our homeowners insurance, so now we are compliant!  We'll get around to painting it or staining it eventually.

Since Justin built the handrail, our homeowner's insurance has been reinstated; however, they also said that we needed to get rid of the bricks in our backyard, which were leftover from our kitchen renovation.  (You can see the bricks in question below.)  We'll probably try using them in our treebox or maybe as a small fence for our front yard, but that's for another day...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My First Foray Into Fall Bulbs

Did I ever tell you guys that I lack a green thumb?  Yup, I'm a plant killer (not intentionally, of course).  Last winter I grew a beautiful potted amaryllis and it grew super tall.  Unfortunately, it died because I forgot to keep watering it.  A couple of months ago I won a potted plant at a raffle and it died because I forgot to water it before Justin and I went out of town for the weekend.  With my plant track record you could imaging Justin's surprise when I asked him to pick up our free bulbs.

Crocuses and Daffodils
I heard about the bulb giveaway from one of the Capitol Hill blogs that I read.  It announced that the Capitol Hill Garden Club would be giving out free flower bulbs for planting in the Fall for bloom in the Spring.  The only catch is that you have to plant them in public areas (e.g.: tree boxes) or places that can be seen from the street (e.g.: your front lawn) and you have to live within the Capitol Hill boundaries (e.g.: Ward 6). 

Note:  Louie on the porch overseeing my work
Since I had never planted bulbs before (I saw my parents do it once a long time ago) or anything else for that matter, I thought this would be a cost-effective (meaning: free) way to improve my black green thumb while helping beautify Capitol Hill!. 

Me trying to put some elbow grease into it

Last weekend, after purchasing a bulb planter, I was on my way planing nearly fifty bulbs in front of our bushes.  There wasn't an exact method behind the way I planted them.  I guess I kind of made a zig-zag pattern with the daffodils and then put little bunches (about three per hole) of crocuses in between.  The best part is that daffodils and crocuses are said to come back every year!

After planting all those bulbs, my wrist was really sore (maybe I was doing it wrong?), but I can't wait to see what comes up at Springtime!

To find out more about the bulb giveaway for next year click here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Octopus Art

What do you call it when you have more than one Briones? Brioni! hehehe...get it? This post is about a piece of artwork that features an octopus in many design blogs such as this one:

Splendid Minta
And more famously in Giuliana and Bill Rancic's dining room as seen here:

I love how the triptych (three pieces forming one work of art) covers a large amount of space.  It's called Lord Bodner's Octopus Study, and I thought it would be the perfect piece to go above our sectional.  A reproduction of this print can cost anywhere between $2000-$4000!  That doesn't including the framing and mat which would also drive up the price.  Since Justin would kill me if I spent that much on anything, I decided to search the internet for some cheaper options so that I could get the same look for less.

I saw similar octopus prints on poster websites but the colors weren't quite what I was looking for.  Eventually, I came across the design blog Splendid Minta, who offered a great do-it-youself tutorial on how to duplicate this triptych.  

Basically, she took free octopus clip art and used a design imaging tool, such as Picnik to design her own color combinations.  I stuck with the blue and white color combination and used the octopus clip art to design the image below.

Close enough, right? Luckily, this image is high resolution because I was able to blow it up to huge proportions (about four feet tall per panel!) and took it to the local Kinko's to get it printed.  Note:  If you plan on making this image a triptych, have the framer cut the print into three equal panels.  I unfortunately had the print shop cut it for me and the three panels weren't even.  :(

Next, I took it to Michael's to get framed.  They were having a 60% off sale on custom framing, but it was still a little more than I was expecting to pay.  However, once I thought about it--the custom sizing, custom mat, and the fact that I could put something different in the future (maybe some interesting wallpaper) I figure that it was worth the investment (or at least that's what I had to convince myself ;).

A few weeks later, I was able to pick up the finished product and it was ready to hang.  Too bad we weren't quite ready to hang it because we were off on our measurements a few times.  

Let's just say that that the future owners of this home will have to patch up several holes in the living room walls. Whoopsy.  

So here's Justin...

Beneath the finished product

Excuse the crappy cell phone photo.  I was trying to get a shot with the least amount of glare, but you get the idea.  I am so happy with the finished product and even happier that I didn't have to spend thousands of dollars for it!

* * *

Folks, I have had several request for the original image I used to make this triptych. Unfortunately, due to blogger size restrictions I will not be able to post that image in this post, nor will I be able to email you the image due to email attachment limitations. The link to the Splenda Minta website (which is what I used) I believe has the best instructions on how to do this yourself. Happy DIYing!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Now on Capitol Hill Calamity?

Okay, okay...I promise not to write another blog post about our House Hunters episode, but I just wanted to post this as an fyi...

Some of our friends and family STILL haven't seen our episode yet. Can you believe it? Some don't have cable (the horror!) and others have simply missed all the times it has aired (It has seriously been on twice a month since it first aired in August). recently posted our episode on their website, under their videos section.  Our show is titled, "Capitol Hill Calamity," which kind of reminds of me Looney Tunes for some reason.

Now you can share the ups and downs, the joys and pains, etc. of our home search from any computer, anytime!  Or at least until they get sick of us and take our video down ;)

Anyway, I have posted it below for your viewing pleasure :)

Courtesy of HGTV

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fall Leaf Collection

Although I love the fact that our street is lined with beautiful maple trees, the arrival of Fall brings the laborious and continuous raking of autumn leaves.  To assist with the huge accumulation of leaves, the District schedules periodic leaf pick-up dates.

Below is our front yard covered in leaves:

Our yard isn't that big, but boy does it pile up with the leaves!  Here is some leaf-raking progress...


Afterwards we usually put the leaves in recyclable bags and put them in our tree box.  Piling the leaves in the treebox will suffice for pick up, but we're always worried that since we do not have a fence, the leaves may blow back into our yard :/ Better safe than sorry.

Here comes the city trucks to pick up the leaves...

And now our sidewalks are leaf-free until the next leaf pick up date.

How does your neighborhood collect leaves?  Do you put them in the large paper bags, too?  Or maybe you use a lawnmower or leaf blower to keep your leaves in check?