Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How To: Plant Seeds Using Eggshells


We were excited when our Sprout Robot alert went off that it was time to start broccoli seeds indoors this weekend for our zip code. With the move and being in the midst of colder months, we are seriously lacking in the gardening department, except for our avocado sprouts (which we have an exciting update on coming tomorrow).

We located our organic broccoli seed packet from last year's garden and hit up our gardening Pinterest boards (mine & hers) where we've been collecting ideas for creative planting all winter. We had one particular idea we'd seen pinned in mind and couldn't wait to try for ourselves — eggshell seed planters.


Evidently, eggshells make the perfect size seed starters, are natural, biodegradable, can be planted directly into the soil after being cracked a little, and supply nourishment to the plant and surrounding soil (not to mention they're free).

After saving the shells from this week's eggs, we set out to make our eggshell planters. Today we're sharing just how we went about it for those of you that might also want to give it a whirl as planting season starts up!

You'll Need:
  • Eggs
  • Egg carton
  • Seeds
  • Planting soil
  • Small spoon
  • Spray bottle
  • Awl, or wide sharp needle
1. When cracking the eggshells, slice the top part of the egg (narrower end) with a sharp knife and gently pour the egg from the opening for use.


2. Reserve eggshells, rinse well inside and out with water. For extra caution, we decided to boil the shells for a few minutes to make sure all traces of egg were cleaned out. You can see how the shells foamed up a bit, letting us know we hadn't gotten everything out with the simple rinse.


3. Rinse eggshells again, and gently place them back in their egg carton to dry. Once dry, gently chip any rough edges of the eggs to desired opening size.


4. Use awl, or wide sharp needle to gently puncture a single hole in the base of the eggshell. This will create a drainage hole for your egg planter. I punctured our shells from the inside against a thin kitchen towel, then reinforced through the back-end to ensure proper drainage could take place. During this step, you may have to remove parts of the thin membrane alongside the eggshell.


5. Place eggshells back in carton and spray gently with water using your spray bottle.


6. With a small spoon, gently scoop planting or potting soil into eggshell to fill (we went with Burpee organic seed starting mix). You may want to gently shake egg to even out soil.


7. Plant seeds according to directions to determine depth and any other special care.


8. Spritz again gently with spray bottle and place in well lit area with sun indoors.


9. Water plants accordingly, watch and wait for your seedlings to sprout.


 

10. Once sprouts have grown large enough to transfer, thin them out and plant directly into the ground or larger planter after gently cracking the eggshell around them. The roots will grow beyond the eggshell into the soil, the shell will continue to provide nourishment to the plant and surrounding soil, and will eventually will biodegrade.


It took our seeds just a few days to sprout up in their eggshell planters — much faster than they have in the past with plastic containers we've used. We'll keep you posted on the progress of our little broccoli plants and hope you'll let us know if you give it a whirl!

If you're as eager to try out this project as we were, plug in your zip code to Sprout Robot and see what seed varieties are ready for indoor planting in your area.

Discover More:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekend Basics

...aaand we're back to basics. This abnormally warm weekend jump-started so many projects!

1. Among a few other indoor home improvement projects, Tim tackled a few outdoor updates since, as mentioned, the weather has been abnormally temperate for January in Virginia. He and Stephanie (his daughter) picked up a birdhouse on a whim during an outing to the home improvement store and installed it in our back courtyaaaawwrd (sorry, we've recently become hooked on the show Downton Abbey and have been saying everything with an old world English accent — anyone else loving this PBS series?).

Yes, Tim is wearing shorts in the middle of January  (I told you it was warm).

OK, back to serious business. They installed the birdhouse on one of the low hanging tree branches in the back right corner of our small patio. Then all three of us decided this location would be way to easy and tempting for Sir Basil to try to jump up and cause general mischief with (as you can see, he was quite curious from the start of all this bird feeder business). So — they moved it to a higher location on the middle right side of the patio. We're looking forward to spotting the birds that may decide to grace us with their presence in the near future.


After hanging the birdhouse, Tim swept up the patio and fixed our motion detector outdoor lights. After about 20 minutes of work, he came inside and proclaimed that that was the kind of time he liked to spend on the weekend doing yard work (referring to the size and time our previous yard required).


2. Sprout Robot informed us it was time to plant broccoli seeds indoors. We jumped at the chance to try out an idea we've been keeping in our back pockets from our Pinterest Gardening boards — eggshell planters. Look for the full tutorial on these guys tomorrow.


3. Major kitchen time. Can I just say we LOVE our new kitchen? We spend the majority of our time in this room and love how it's in the heart of the house. Tim whipped up the following recipes: artisan bread, sloppy Joes, and baked Thai chicken wings — all of which can be found throughout this week on E.A.T.



4. A little project involving carrots that we (and Basil) are looking forward to sharing later this week.



P.S. For those of you running your own creative endeavors, find a specialized merchandising report full of tips and key dates to remember I put together to carry you through the month of February: here, on the Etsy blog.

P.P.S. We announced the 2 winners of our Bag Balm giveaway this weekend — congrats to those with a tin of our favorite "goop" and we hope the rest of you will stay tuned for future giveaways right here on 17 Apart!

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Few Things...

1. Last night we got a chance to eat at a new RVA dinner spot we've been wanting to try, The Magpie. It's located just a few blocks away from us and has been generating a lot of local buzz for it's amazing food — and creative decor.


After one look at the menu, we knew we had to try the lobster tail corn dog (yes, you read that right). We also shared a few other small plates — braised pork cheeks, Ahi tuna with the biggest slab of smoked bacon we've ever seen, and house made fettuccine with sausage.


The space is super small and cozy — great for a date night or taking people unfamiliar with the area. If you're visiting from out of town, definitely put this place on your lists of eats!

2. In other food news, have you ever heard of or tried the famous signature cupcakes of Magnolia Bakery in New York? If you're a fan, you may be interested to know they have plans to expand into other areas, globally. Mary has been following this news like a hawk.

3. On another note...


Feeling worn out from his morning yoga session (downward dog anyone?), Basil has decided to take it easy the rest of this rainy day...

 

Here's wishing you a happy weekend.

P.S. There's still time to enter our Bag Balm giveaway, which is great for softening those furry friends' paws in this winter weather.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Testing Out Clearly Fresh Bags

Tim and I were contacted by Clearly Fresh Bags, a new company specializing in a type of zipper bag that claims to preserve the freshness of produce like fresh fruit and vegetables beyond what their normal shelf life would have been should you have left them on the counter, in the fridge, or in another type of zipper bag on their own. They've developed a new technology, controlling the way air flows in and out of the bag via a BreathWay membrane on the front of the bags and wanted to know if we'd be interested in testing them out for ourselves.


We've had inquiries to do product reviews before, something we're not opposed to, but haven't really found a good fit with yet. For the sake of keeping it real, we've just not come across any products we felt were a good fit with what we'd actually buy, use, or give a try.

All of this being said, when asked by the nice folks over at Clearly Fresh Bags if we wanted to receive and review their zipper bags, we were excited to have finally found a product we'd try out if asked or not — so naturally, we said yes! Today, we're happy to share our own experience testing out the Clearly Fresh Bags.tim

After receiving the bags, we set out to tackle our weekend shopping trip over at Ellwood Thompsons, picked up the produce and ingredients we knew we'd need for a few recipes Tim had up his sleeve for E.A.T. and a few extra fruits and veggies for snacking. Given the fact I'd be heading up to New York for the week, it was a great time to test the promise of the Clearly Fresh Bags and how well they may or may not preserve the freshness of our produce until I got back home.

 

The bags come in sets of 10 and are significantly larger than the regular large zipper bags we usually purchase, for example, we were able fit entire heads of cabbage and lettuce into separate bags.

We tossed all of the veggies (cabbage, lettuce, fennel, and bok choy) into the bags immediately and I broke up the bunch of bananas we got to do a visual "side by side test" of the bags to show here on the blog. I put the yellower (more ripe) bananas in the bags and left the less ripened ones outside the bag to try to slow the over-ripening process on the already yellower bananas. I also thought it would be fun to show just how well the ones in the bags stayed to their true form compared with their not-even-ripe-yet green counterparts if everyone panned out.


It's been roughly 12 days and we're looking good. Pleasantly surprised to say that in our household the bags deliver on their promise to keep produce fresher for longer. Speaking on a personal level, the freshness of the veggies was most impressive — when we took them out after the 12 days, they were just as crisp and full as the day we bought them which isn't usually the case this late into the game.

Upon returning home, Tim had used up the fennel, and part of the cabbage and lettuce for recipes he'd been working on throughout the week (this cabbage side dish he made is perfect for Valentine's Day if you are looking for a good recipe). I love how he was able to place the remainder of the produce back in the bags to restore their freshness and use again. The bok choy and bananas hadn't been touched, so were intact since we'd placed them in the bags.


By day 12 we are usually deciding whether to use up leftover veggies right away or pitch into the compost. I didn't want to do a side by side comparison of the veggies since we didn't want to waste anything (knowing without a doubt they would shrivel up if left out in the fridge). Check out how well they held up and retained their freshness:


You can see the difference in the banana "test" pretty clearly. I'm not one to shy away from week and a half old bananas, but I will say it's really nice not to have the entire bunch on it's last leg.

 

The yellower bananas from the bag stayed pretty much the same over the 12 days with a little extra browning — but surprisingly kept their "plumpness." You can see how the greener and less ripe bananas we left outside the bag as we normally would ripened well past the originally riper ones in the bags. These guys ripened at a rate I'm used to, browning more significantly and losing a lot of their firmer shapeliness.

Take a closer look at the two sets outside of the bags. Bananas from the Clearly Fresh bags are on the right and the originally greener ones on the left:


Here's a breakdown of the pluses and minuses from our test:

Plus sides: The Clearly Fresh Bags worked! In addition to meeting the claims of longer lasting freshness, we love that these zipper bags are recyclable (you just have to remove the sticker membrane). We also love the size of the bags — they are much larger than regular zipper bags and can hold an entire head of cabbage, which as you can see, was nice in our circumstance. It was also nice that the package came with 10 bags, which may seem like less than normal zipper bag boxes, but gave us plenty to use for the future. Given that they extended the shelf life of our produce, we could potentially end up buying less produce next go round and negate the need for those extra bags in the first place.

Down sides: The only downsides we agree on thus far are the fact that these zipper bags are really intended for one or two uses to meet their maximum working point. It may sound gross, but we're the type that like to use zipper bag a few times over if they're still "clean" so having to throw these in the recycle bin after a single use (if we don't want to reuse for something else non-food related) is a little bit of a bummer. Other than that, just being picky about the way things are displayed and look around our kitchen, I wasn't a big fan of having our bananas inside the zipper bags out on our counter. I told you it was picky, haha, and I'd definitely rather be able to eat a fresh banana later in the week rather that have to throw one away because I wanted it to stay out and look nice.

If you're interested in learning more, check out the Clearly Fresh Bags website and find them on Facebook. We'd love to know if these bags are something you'd try if given the opportunity? Let us know in the comments section below!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Roundup: Matching Tattoos for Couples

Our last post on his and hers tattoos was so popular, we thought there isn't a better time then now for another roundup with new designs we've come across in our internet journeys. While we're still not quite in the market (if ever) for getting inked ourselves — it's fun to live vicariously through those that have already taken the plunge. The following list of complementary tattoos come from couples who seem to have nailed it, no?

 
Each image, their source & more designs in Mary's Tattoo Files Pinterest Board

The tattoo designs above would make for matching ideas not only just for couples but families, friends and more. Tell us – if you have ink, are you still happy with what you chose?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Would You Like a Tour of our New Home?

Now that we've been living in our new house a little under a month, we thought it was high time to take you on a tour of the whole space, room by room, just as we found it and began moving in on the first day.

This is the same tour we take everyone on the first time they come see us in our new digs, so please do come in and enjoy...

When visiting our home, you'll find our little yellow house among rows of other brick town homes in the Fan district of Richmond, VA. It's currently one of the few on our street without the original front porch — something we hope to restore way down the road if it pans out. The house was built in 1912 and has been entered into the historic register here in Richmond. We have double front storm doors with large panes of glass, where you will most likely always find Basil, our dog, there to greet you as you come in.


The home is a railroad style layout where all the rooms follow one another all the way to the back of the house. There are hardwood floors throughout, high ceilings, and at one point the home was converted into a duplex — then converted back to a single family. 

Be warned, the remainder of these almost 120 home tour photos are pretty shaky, poorly lit, and all around less than stellar. I took them pretty rushed as we were first getting in and was still using our macro lens instead of the kit lens that came with our camera, which allows for much better panning out and full room views (thanks for teaching us how to use it, Kelly). All of the images I got are pretty choppy and don't really illustrate full rooms, but I did want to document what the home looked like in its first state before we really began to move in. 

Also, we're keeping it super real in these shots — stuff thrown everywhere as we literally brought carfuls of belongings over and just tossed them about. All the window treatments, finishes, and hardware are as we found them when moving in, so we'll have fun updating those elements as we go along. So thanks for bearing with us on these initial shots — we're looking forward to sharing updated photos of how things progress along in much larger and more easily viewable formats.

When you come through the front doors, you're greeted by a front entry hallway that looks straight up our front staircase and gives a big open view of the rooms on the main floor. In this view, directly to the left of the entry is our front parlor (we keep calling it our paaaawwwlaa with our best southern drawls), followed by an open family room, then our kitchen.


Directly to the left of our front entryway is our front parlor (paaaawwwlaa). It's enclosed by two walls with functioning pocket doors, allowing the ability to close the entire room off if we want. It's also painted in a bright textured red finish (got to go), has two big beautiful windows peeking out front, and a fireplace in the center of the wall you face when peering in from the front hall.

 

The front parlor has a wide doorway which leads into the open family room, where you can also peer into the kitchen (not 3 doors as one might think given these terrible photos, haha).

Here we are in the next room, the family room looking back into the front parlor:


Views from the front hall walking into the open family room (bypassing the front parlor), which also has a beautiful fireplace that's been converted to gas:


Standing in the family room, looking back at the front hall (parlor behind that wall to the right):


Views into the kitchen and back of the house from the family room:


We have a small black door on the wall of the staircase that opens up into a pretty large storage closet (lot's of deep room and vertical shelving). It's been Basil approved, but needs some TLC. Looks like a cat may have lived here at some point, judging by the tiny cat door peeking through the bottom of this door:


From the family room, you walk into the largest room on the main floor — the kitchen. We love this part of the house since most kitchens in these types of homes would have been in the back room of the house. This one has been updated and brought into the heart of the home. The photo directly below was taken about a week into living here but gives a wider, less choppy view, of what the kitchen looks like:


The light in the kitchen is unbeatable for these Fan type homes. There are three bay windows shining light into the room, which makes for great food photos when Tim's cooking. The kitchen has a tall island, gas stove with 5 burners (something Tim's been wanting for a long time), and lots of storage. 

 

As you continue walking towards the back of the home, just beyond the kitchen is a smaller hallway which we think could work well as a mudroom of sorts. From this little space are two doors — one leading into the half bath downstairs and the other leading down to our partial unfinished storage basement:


Behind door number one, you'll find the downstairs bathroom:


Behind door number two, you'll find our slightly scary but great for storage basement.


The basement currently houses the less-than-desirable-looking (but fully functional) washer and dryer, along with a retired boiler, old storage shelves, and a door to our back patio. This space needs a lot of work, but for now it will serve as great storage and the temperature down there is just perfect for storing wine.

 

The room behind the area we are calling the mudroom is what will be our dining room and the very back room of the house on the main floor. Neither Tim nor I are big fans of the marble floor (or purple walls), but these are of course things that can be changed over time.

It's a large room with two windows looking into the back yard. We are currently using this room to literally catch everything we bring over or want to get rid of in one place.


At the back of the dining room are another set of two doors. The one on the left leads into the rear staircase. This is a steeper set of stairs that leads up to the back of the home upstairs — it's got tons of character.


The other door in the back room of the house leads out to our back patio. Those bricks you see straight ahead belong our neighbor's home — yes we are that close.


The back yard is a small but workable space, mainly covered in bricks. It looks out to our separate garage, and then back to the house. You'll notice decking and stairs that we think were used as a second entry or fire escape when the house used to be a duplex. Down the road we think we'd like to do something all together different with this decking, but for now it's great for getting outside from the upstairs and we think it will serve as a nice aid in our vertical gardening plans.


The back patio leads to our detached garage. We were thrilled the house came with a "carriage house" since so many were sold off from the original homes over time. Right now we are using it for storage and for off street parking of course. We hope to create some more creative storage solutions and possibly make a dual workshop in there.


OK! Now that you've seen the full downstairs how we found it, let us take you back to the front of the home and up the main staircase to see the upstairs why don't we?

 

When you get to the top of the stairs, the hallway runs along the full right side of the home, with most rooms along the left side — the master encompasses the full width of the front of the house and the back room encompasses the full width of the back of the house.

Here you are looking to the back of the house as you come up the front stairs:


If you turn around, you can see back down into the front hall and straight ahead into the master bedroom at the front of the house.


Let's go to the front of the house and work our way back from there. The master is along the full front width of the home, has two large windows looking out the front, a functioning door out the front (where we think you would have been able to step out on that front porch), another fireplace, a deep closet, and a bathroom within the master.


Here's a view out that front doorway and a look at the pull down door into the attic (that big blue rope has got to go).


More views of the master and a peek into the small bathroom with lots of shelving and a stand up shower:


When we turn back around and head back into the upstairs hallway, to your direct left there is another small room before you hit that big green room (you can barely see the doorway in this shot to the left in front of the other doorway):


This small room is directly connected but walled off from the master. The previous owners were using it as a nursery. We're thinking it could make a great office, studio, or even a walk-in closet/dressing room. Way down the road we are hoping to bring the walls back down between these two front rooms to join them up and possibly create an upstairs laundry area between the two.


It's hard to imagine from the photos, but the closet in this room and the closet in the master are side by side — so these walls should be easy to break down in the future. This charming little room also has a fireplace and a big window, which we just love.


Next up on the tour is the main bedroom after the master on the second floor. It also has those big beautiful bay windows you saw down in the kitchen, a closet with nice vertical storage, and it's own doorway into the guest bathroom.


This brings us to the upstairs full guest bath, which if you are a regular reader, might remember views of when Tim's dad helped us open up that painted shut medicine cabinet on the left wall. We love this bathroom and although it could use some minor upgrades and paint, we think it's got tons of character.


Walking out of the guest bath from the hall door (pictured below directly on the left), leads you to the very back room of the upstairs (it's right over the dining room if that helps orient you).


In this back room, you'll recognize the top of that rear staircase, two big windows looking out into the backyard, a couple built-in bookcases and light fixtures, it's own closet, and a doorway leading out back.
 

If you step out on the back deck stairwell from this back room, here is what you will see on either side and below:


That's my dad sweeping up the back patio when we were first getting in the home, hey dad! This stairwell comes in handy in the middle of the night if Basil needs to "go outside." Instead of having to walk all the way downstairs, we can just let him out from the upstairs. 

Now you've had the grand tour — thanks for hanging in there with us. Anyone that's made it this far deserves a prize! You can see we've got a lot of work ahead of us to make it ours, but we're still at the stage where the thought of all that work is exciting and not yet overbearing. We're planning to just take our time, enjoy it, and share bits and pieces along the way.

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UPDATES: Now that we've been in our new house for over 1 month, here's a handy list of updates we've made along they way:
For all home and decor related posts, check out our Home and Home Decor blog tags. Thanks!