July 31, 2012

DIY Vine Supports & Sweet Potato Update

Last weekend, we mentioned seeing some sweet potato vines that were growing like crazy in our neighborhood — so much so that they needed vertical garden supports. We were inspired by seeing what our plants might soon look like enough that we decided to make some diy supports of our own!

Remember all those excess crape myrtle branches we set aside back in March, knowing we'd probably be able to do something with them later down the road?

Well it's down the road right about now, so we decided to build a little branch ladder support system to lean against the fence over our potato sacks in an effort to wrangle and train their fast-growing vines.

I laid out the basic plan for something like this back in March (for anyone thinking I must be crazy for wearing long pants and a sweatshirt in this 90 degree VA heat wave), thinking we might use it for squash, but we didn't get to planting squash so the idea came back into play with the potatoes.

I just laid out the sticks like a wide ladder, then we secured each of the meeting points with a twist of wire and wrapped twine around them for added support:

We simply leaned this structure against the fence from the base of the potato sacks and gently wrapped the growing vines up and around the branches to help train them to grow vertically.

Don't worry, our supervisor made sure we were being careful during this stage of handling the plants:

At this point I decided to weave one of the leftover bamboo stakes we had on hand through the middle of the branch structure just to add more options for the vines to climb over (this was a very high-tech addition).

It wasn't long after we called this part of the project complete that our supervisor came over to inspect for "quality control."

We might be asking for it here, but we are hoping Basil will leave this support structure alone — he's a sucker when it comes to sticks, so there's no telling. We might call him in from outside one day only to find this entire structure proudly disassembled. So far, we're giving him the benefit of the doubt and the promise of freshly baked sweet potato treats if he can patiently wait this one through to fall.

So here's what we're looking like right about now:

Keep up with our full sweet potato growing project in this post, detailing each of the stages in how to grow your own sweet potatoes indoors!

P.S. Throughout the documentation of this sweet potato growing project on the blog, we've received several comments letting us know it's safe and actually a really great treat to cook with and eat sweet potato vine leaves. This is something we haven't tried before, but just might — we'd love to hear your favorite recipes using sweet potato leaves if you have them in the comments section below.

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July 30, 2012

Weekend Basics

We spent this past weekend close to home and around our favorite spots here in RVA. Those pepper plants we transferred into our front planters have since turned colors, so we decided to go ahead and pick them to allow the main plants a little rest and time to strengthen their root system before producing the next round of peppers:

After picking them, we diced them up and tossed 'em in a cast iron skillet with some other summer veggies we needed to use up — the end result was a brunch of champions we're share here on the blog later this week!


Speaking of using up excess vegetables, we dehydrated a new batch of sweet potato treats for Basil and at the same time, tested out the same dehydration method on rings of eggplant. The result was awesome — see Basil being very still for the treat below:

In an effort to use up the rest of the eggplant we had on hand, we tested out a new recipe for roasted eggplant hummus:

This hummus was awesome and I can't wait to share our recipe for it later in the week on E.A.T.

During our weekly trip to the farmer's market, we spotted a new vendor, Gresham Pollard of Earthworks Enterprises, with these incredible natural rain barrel covers he makes from wood vines:

He calls them natural landscape elements since they are so versatile — rain barrel covers, tomato cages, garden supports, compost bins, and more. He also had a book filled with photos of other natural landscaping structures he's able to build, like garden and trellis gates that are equally as stunning. Seeing these made us want to get on to getting a rain barrel sooner than later! If you are in the Richmond area, definitely stop by the South of the James Farmer's Market to see these in person.

We took Basil down to the river near our other house — we hadn't been in weeks, can you tell by this photo the sheer excitement he had in being there?

Not sure we quite captured the full emotion of it all:

All that playtime at the river worked up an appetite, so I whipped together what I've dubbed The Belmont between Norwood steak sandwich:

 I gave it this name since the steak came from Belmont Butchery and the bread from Norwood Cottage Bakery — find the full recipe published on E.A.T. today.

Probably the most exciting part of our weekend involved getting to pick ripened figs straight from our neighbor's backyard tree. This is Mary taking a photo of me picking a basket-full from our top landing.

Since moving into this house, we've been waiting and watching this fig tree in hopes we might be lucky enough to pick some come fig season. Well the night the figs drooped, our neighbor was more than happy to let me go back there and relieve the tree of as many figs as we wanted — score!

Much more on this to come...

We ended the weekend with a Sunday supper of linguini and fresh clams — find the recipe for this easy summer dish in my latest guest post for Lot18:

We hope each of you had a wonderful weekend and are looking forward to August — can you beleive  it's almost here??

Reveal: Our Gray Walls

As promised (and drug out...), today we're excited to show off the final results of our kitchen, back hallway nook and downstairs bathroom painting project. Catch up on all details for how we decided on what color gray paint was our perfect shade, how we prepped the three rooms for painting and how we decided to go all out and paint 2 entire walls in black chalkboard paint.

So let's get on with it shall we?

Here's what our kitchen currently looks like with the freshly painted gray walls and chalkboard paint accent wall above the cabinets (see the before shots in this post):


While the gray we chose is a really subtle difference in shade from the previous ivory/cream walls, we just love how the color makes the trim around the room pop and gives the wall a fresh, cool and calming feeling. We haven't added any chalk drawings to the accent wall yet, but you can bet we've got a few ideas up our sleeves!

Here's a look at the final result of painting the same shade of gray and chalkboard accent wall in the little hallway behind our kitchen (see the before shots in this post):

This room used to be purple and was one of the colors we looked forward to bidding farewell to the most.

Side note: The back room is still painted in our favorite shade of purple that this little hallway was. We're hoping to take on painting that room next, but for now it might reflect a little purple-ish tint into the hallway.

Our downstairs bathroom, which is connected right off that little hallway used to have baby blue colored walls — we were so happy to update the feel of the space with the fresh gray color. Here's the end result and what this space currently looks like (see the before shots in this post):

We ended up moving that big framed Richmond map advertisement into the bathroom from the kitchen for the time being since it filled up the wall space pretty well. We also swapped in a bigger mirror than the little one we tossed up on the wall as a place marker when first moving in. We're not sold that this mirror will be the final choice for this room (since the gold clashes with the chrome finished hardware throughout the rest of this room), but it looks better than what we had and we tried to tie the gold-ish frame color to the gold frame color of the smaller stand mirror on that little antique dental cart we have in the corner of this room.

So, you've had a look at all three rooms with their new paint makeover separately, but our main goal in this undertaking was to try to visually tie these three separate spaces into the feeling of one bigger area — how about we take a tour showing how we tried to tie them all together?

Yes, let's get on that...

If you walk into our home from the front door, this is how you will first see the kitchen from our living room. Note how you  can see all the way to the back of the house, with that little middle hallway connecting the kitchen and back of the house — now that the kitchen walls match the walls in this little hallway nook, we feel like the spaces tie together much more cohesively:

Here's a closer look at the same passageway:

Now, if you look into the kitchen from the same spot in the living room but turned slightly left, you'll get a much fuller view of the kitchen wall that holds the majority of our appliances and cabinets:

This is the accent wall where we decided to paint the chalkboard paint — we love the way it pops off the wall and interacts with the other shades of gray, white and black throughout the space. 

After seeing how the little hallway nook and kitchen tie together with the same gray color, you'll hopefully see how they tie together even more with both of their upper walls painted in the black chalkboard paint. Here's a couple views of how these rooms look transitioning into one another:

And last but not least, the first black door you see off the little hallway nook leads into our downstairs half bathroom, which we painted the same shade of gray as the kitchen and hallway — no chalkboard walls in the bathroom though (boo...):

Here's the view looking back out into the hallway nook from the bathroom. While there's no chalkboard walls in this bathroom, the painted black radiator, black & white checkered tile floor and black & white dental cabinet again tie all the other shades of gray, white and black throughout the space together:

We're pretty smitten with the final results of both the fresh gray paint and the chalkboard paint accent walls to say the least. While we're not done on the decorating side of things, we feel like this project has really laid out the foundation for the other things we want to do — like chalk drawings on those chalkboard walls!

For anyone who didn't get a chance to click back to the prep posts and wants a look at what these three rooms looked like before we painted, take a look:

Kitchen Before:

Kitchen After:

Bathroom Before:

Bathroom After:

Hallway Nook Before:

Hallway Nook After:

Thanks for following along as we've started to pull these three rooms together. Once we've relaxed from painting a little we'd like to tackle painting the back dining room and middle living areas of the downstairs — we'll be sure to keep you posted. 

July 27, 2012

Painting the Kitchen in Chalkboard Paint

We left off with a preview of the prep and painting we tackled in our kitchen, back hallway and connected guest bathroom.

Before we show you the big reveal of the final outcome, we thought we'd throw a little twist into this here project to shake things up — and it involves black chalkboard paint:

The idea of chalkboard paint has been brewing from a combination of things:

1. In our old house, we had a small wall nook painted in black chalkboard paint where we kept a running grocery list and let all the children who came by leave us a little message — it was fun to have and we always knew we wanted to have a similar area in our new home at some point.
2. When we put up the gray swatch vote for our peers to help us choose how to paint the kitchen, we had more than a couple suggestions roll in (pun intended) for painting the cabinet side of our kitchen wall in a darker accent color — this really got our wheels spinning.
3. Finally, seeing so many chalkboard & black walls "done right" popping up all over Pinterest, gave us the needed to push to just go for it in a big way — we could always paint back over it if we majorly failed, right?

I know that black walls sound kind-of crazy, so to help illustrate what we're going for here, we pulled a ton of inspiration shots:

All of the above images can be found with their original sources in my Home Inspiration Pinterest Board. We're hoping for a bold accent wall that's still clean and a little fresh, if that makes sense — not  overbearingly black dungeony walls.

We went with a quart sized can of Valspar Interior Chalkboard Paint we picked up from Lowe's — you can find different versions of chalkboard paint at your local hardware store, craft store or online. We've also been seeing different tutorials crop up for making your own DIY chalkboard paint in any color you choose which also seems like a fun project to try.

Once we knew we wanted to try some large-scale accent walls in chalkboard paint, we decided on the the upper section of wall above our kitchen cabinets and the upper wall above the chair-railing in our back hallway. Both of these sections are on the same portion of wall in their respective rooms, so this was just another way we hoped to visually tie all 3 rooms together.

I'm not sure why, but Tim swears by this little 3 inch paint roller when painting with chalkboard paint.  I'm not going to question it, especially since he did all of that rolling!

Please don't let these streaky paint photos scare you — this was the first coat and the final result came out solid and smooth:

Action shots! Sometimes leaning in for the roll requires balancing on one foot:

Then I got up on the ladder and would go behind Tim, trying to edge in as close to the wall as possible without making any mistakes:

I'm more of a free-hand edge kind of gal — to be honest, using painter's tape has only led to major mistakes on my part in the past that weren't pretty, so I just try to take my time and be super careful. I will admit that edging with the black chalkboard paint was really scary and actually kind-of stressful. With the lighter paints we've been using, it's been easier but as soon as that dark as dark hue went up on the wall, I suddenly felt as though any mistake I made would be magnified x10. 

I just continued to take it really slow and in small crevices or areas where I felt like I couldn't reach with the regular edging brush, I actually used a small art brush from my old collection of paintbrushes I had when I was in Art School — this was a big help in those smaller areas and gave me much more control over the paint coverage.

We ended up being able to paint both accent walls in our kitchen above the cabinets and above the chair-railing in our back hallway with 2 thick coats using one quart of the chalkboard paint.

So our painting adventure continues — we'll be back next time with the final outcome!

More on this Project:
  • Find the full details on how we prepped and began painting all the other walls in these rooms with a light shade of gray in this post
  • Guess What!? We finished the painting — find the full reveal post with final photos of the paint in this post.
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