Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 17 Apart in 2012

This past year seemed to fly right by and before we knew it, here we are again at the end of the year, looking back at all the projects we took on and memories we made. In keeping with last year, we thought it would be fun to post a roundup of the top 10 most popular posts we published over the past year.


The following posts are in order from most popular and we used a combination of Google Analytics and Blogger Stats to determine which posts had the highest page views. In doing so, we learned that once again, our How-To and DIY posts seem to be pretty popular — we even had a handful of them mentioned on sites we love like Apartment Therapy, The Huffington Post, A Beautiful Mess, CRAFT, Buzzfeed, and The Kitchn! So awesome.

We were equally excited to find our celery growing project featured in The Kitchn's top 15 money saving tips of 2012 and our DIY Stump Table featured in Apartment Therapy's Best of Before & Afters in 2012!

So without further ado, or in the event you missed a few of these popular posts or just want to stroll down memory lane with us a bit, listed below are the top 10 posts from 17 Apart in 2012:

1. How to re-grow celery over and over again. This was one of our first indoor urban growing projects — it turned out so successfully that it fueled us to start a series experimenting with what other plant scraps we could regenerate plants from. This little celery growing project was also featured this year on The Kitchn.

2. How to grow green onions indefinitely. Similar to the celery, we watched and learned all about how green onions can literally regrow themselves, virtually overnight, if placed in water near a windowsill. This little green onion growing project really took off and was featured this year on The Huffington Post.

3. DIY faux mercury glass finish anything. Once we learned how to achieve an incredible faux mercury glass finish using a spray bottle, vinegar, water and Krylon Looking Glass Spray, Mary wanted to give virtually everything in our house a mirrored glass update. This diy finish was so popular, it was featured on both CRAFT and A Beautiful Mess this year.

4. Plant and grow sweet potatoes indoors and in bags. Venturing into the world of growing sweet potatoes was new for us — you guys followed along as we sprouted stems, planted them in bags, and later harvested what were teeny tiny sweet potatoes! This is one project we are looking forward to trying our hands at with even better luck next year.

5. How to re-grow bok choy. Just like the celery growing project, we learned that bok choy can also completely regenerate itself from the base of the plant if placed in a bowl of water near a windowsill. It's almost like magic how well this experiment works, and it's a great one to try with children.

6. Homemade sweet potato dog chew treats. Once we learned how to make inexpensive versions of our favorite dehydrated sweet potato dog treats, we've never looked back. Not only are they natural and easy to make, they've saved us tons of money and Basil loves them. This treat recipe generated a lot of "buzz" when featured on Buzzfeed this year (pun intended).

Speaking of homemade natural dog treat recipes, our versions for carrot and banana treats were also among your favorites this year:

As were 2011's recipe for homemade natural apple dog treats:

7. Recipe: Inside Out Summer Mojitos. My twist on the traditional Mojito recipe by freezing mint leaves directly into giant ice cubes was a hit this summer — we are already looking forward to making these guys again when the weather warms up:

8. DIY Stump Table. Transforming the stump we found on the side of the street (headed for the landfill) into a table was among our own favorite diy undertakings this year. It was the first time either of us had attempted making furniture and we actually use this new little table every single day — it's the star of our living room. To our excitement, this little before and after project really took off and was featured over on Apartment Therapy this year!

9. Plant seeds in eggshells. This time last year we were already getting ready for early spring plantings and we began our little seedlings using eggshells instead of plastic planters. This method worked so well for us, we're looking forward to using it again in the coming weeks.

10. How to make homemade butter. This year we tried our hands at making homemade butter from scratch — it turns out you all found this surprisingly simple DIY recipe as amazing as we did!

And that's the 2012 roundup! We had a blast looking back through each of these projects and it's sparked a new fire under our bottoms to take on new gardening and diy undertakings in the new year. We took on many more recipes and projects throughout the past year other than what's been listed here, so keep up with all of our DIY projects we've got going on with this giant list on our DIY page.

Love recipes and want to see even more? Check out the top most popular recipes from my food blog, E.A.T., in a similar 2012 roundup right here.

...and in case you missed them or just want to look back through with us, here's a look at the top posts from 2011:

Thanks for helping us look back over the past 12 months and remembering all the fun things we've taken on. It means so much to us that you follow along and share in our journey. Here's wishing everyone a safe and happy New Year's Eve!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holiday Bits & Photos

As the holidays come to a close this year, we wanted to take the opportunity to share a few more pics from the first big Christmas we hosted in our house. You can see all our holiday decorations here and today we wanted to post a few random bits and pieces along with some family shots to help remember this holiday season.


We've been excited to get a tree up in this house. This one came from Farm to Family and made the house smell so good every time we'd walk into the home from being away. I had gotten the tree into the stand and in the house, then Mary wrapped all the lights around it — then we put all the ornaments and finishing touches on it together.

We even got to use this oddball vintage extension chord, specifically for holiday decorating that we'd gotten from Mary's grandmother's attic when they were trying to clear things out:


The Christmas ham is a big deal in our house. As I've mentioned before, my parents came over to help me learn how they cook the ham each year. I was excited that Stephanie wanted in on this traditional action too:

Mary and I were excited to get to use the china dishes and serveware of her maternal grandmother's:

There are 20 place settings in all and it was the first time we used the set since it was passed down to her. We both like how the traditional china seemed to fit right in with the look and feel of our farm table.

This was the first time we'd had 12 people at our dining room table, but as you can see it worked out well for the space (with the help of a few extra stools here and there):

It's awesome to know we can fit 12 people around this table. If we are able to host Christmas dinner at our house again next year, we will need to make room for Mary's sister, husband and 3 children — so that will be a new challenge!

Stockings are always a big deal in our house — without fail, Santa always leaves more than he remembers our stockings can actually hold. This year, Mary was greeted by a plastic bag full of "stocking stuffer overflow" hanging from the mantle on Christmas morning:

Mary might kill me for this next one, but here we are first thing in the morning opening up our own stockings before we got ourselves cleaned up and everyone arrived. Sometimes the best part of Christmas is coming down the steps in your pj's to see what Santa left:

Santa even remembered Basil again this year, though he had to wait until the evening to open it up in front of everyone:

Among many treats, dental sticks, and new toys, the Himalayan dog chew was absolutely the biggest hit. It's one of those toys he gets all anxious over, pacing around the house trying to find a good place to hide it while whining at the same time. These things are made from pure yak and cow milk that's been boiled down and hardened to create a super tough, yet natural chew toy. Thanks Santa!

Here's a great shot of Brandon opening up the vintage mistletoe decoration I grew up with. My parents had written a note to go with it, explaining it's history and Mom read it aloud while he opened it — it a cool moment (from the looks of it, Basil may have thought this was a toy for him):

Here are some of our favorite family photo shots in front of the tree this year:

Me & Mary with Basil above and us with Mary's Mom and Aunt Vera below:

My brother, Mike, his wife, Becky, and their daughter (my niece), Caitlin:

All 3 Vidra grandchildren (Stephanie, Brandon & Caitlin):

Mom & Dad:

Me with Mom & Dad:

Me with the kids (little did Brandon know I was on my tippy toes):

Here's a good shot of dad — he was also assuming the role of photographer that day:

And to wrap things up, here's our favorite shot of Basil laying on the floor with everyone while they opened gifts — with his head resting across Brandon's legs:

It was a good first Christmas here in the house and we're looking forward to continuing the new tradition.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Decorating for the Holidays

Our steel deer head from The Steel Fork gets in the holiday spirit.

We hope you've been having a wonderful holiday week and finish to the year. Tim and I were both able to take a little time off to celebrate Christmas with our families and are enjoying getting a few little things done around the house that have been in the back of our minds to cross off the list.

We wanted to pop in today to share pictures of all the holiday decorations we were able to get up and around the the house this year. When we look back at the holiday decorations we had up this time last year, we realize just how far we've come in this new house over the past 12 months — from paint colors, to furniture, to just plain old more decorations. All the important things have remained the same — getting to spend time with family, friends and having Basil around to keep us all in line.

Speaking of last year, you might remember the reclaimed barn wood Christmas trees my mother gave us as a housewarming gift:

We were excited to pull them out from storage and actually updated them each with a new string of LED lights. They sat in our front hall leading into the parlor where our Christmas tree and majority of our other decorations were hanging out.

Just behind the barn wood trees, we moved the antique sewing machine table (that Tim's parents had given us) caddy cornered in the room and placed all of our Christmas cards on it as a way to welcome everyone coming into the room:

We got so many different kinds of cards this year — from photos to postcards and more. While we both loved displaying them on the sewing table, Tim and I both agreed we need to come up with a better DIY solution for displaying them next year. Just like us to assign ourselves a good DIY project a year in advance.

For our own Christmas cards, we kept with our tradition of ordering from an independent designer and went with these letterpress greetings from Echo Letterpress on Etsy:

We got the Christmas Ham and Wishbone versions, which were both a little whimsical and vintagey feeling at the same time. Not only did we love the look/feel of the cards, we thought they fit us perfectly given their food related nature.

Tim even photographed the ham card with our own Christmas ham before he began cooking it, ha:

When it was time to really get decorating, we brought out the big bins from storage and things started to get real. Not gonna lie, we had this sort of mess going on for an entire weekend at one point:

Our downstairs mantles were filled with stockings, nutmeg clementines and magnolia trimmings:


Then there's the tree. Here's Basil wondering what's about to come through the door while Tim was getting the tree ready for the stand:

Tim got this year's tree from Mark and Suzi at Farm to Family — we were so excited to get one almost as tall as our 11ft ceilings. After we got the tree inside and decorated, we had something that looked like this: 


We went with colorful LED lights and filled the tree with all of our favorite ornaments. We have some from his childhood, my childhood, ones we've picked up together along the way, ones of Stephanie and Brandon's and little random ones here and there. It was fun to pull them all out from storage and re-tell eachother the stories about each one we could remember. If you look closely, near the top left of the tree you will see a stuffed reindeer ornament. That one started out near the bottom of the tree but Basil couldn't help himself and kept ripping it off the tree, thinking it was a stuffed toy for him.

Tim picked up a handful of burlap coffee sacks from Blanchard's here in Richmond to stack under the tree as a tree skirt — I'd love to make a real tree skirt with them at some point, and love their natural and rustic feel — there's always next year!

You know who begged to be photographed in front of the tree:

Here's the tree all lit up on Christmas morning after most everyone had arrived and filled the room with gifts:


As for the outside view of the house, you may remember it looks like this:

You can really see the tree all lit up inside and remember the tomato cages we turned upside-down and strung with lights to make them look like Christmas trees:

This year we also got candles for each of the front windows in the house. This was something I really wanted to do last year, but every single store in Richmond was completely sold out by the time we'd moved into the house.

Needless to say, I went on a candle mission in late November this year and found these guys at Target. We love that these candle lights are battery operated, completely LED and have little sensors to automatically turn themselves on at dusk and off at dawn — there were completely set to go once we got them in the windowsills.

As for getting them in the windowsills, the main floor windows were pretty straightforward. We did, however, have to hack a couple of the windows to get the candles to appear "correct" from the outside view. Take our doorway window in the center of our bedroom for example:

Yes — we stacked a little suitcase on a stool to rest the candle on for an entire month to make it look even from the outside view. Maybe we are crazy, but if you scroll back up and look at all the candles in the windows — they all line up, ha!

Tim also hacked displaying two candles up in our attic. We have two windows at the very top of our house, making it look like a 3rd level, though it's really just an attic in the eaves. He put cardboard boxes up to these windows since they don't really have a proper sill to rest on and we were good to go:

The funny thing about any time we go up in the attic is the onslaught of anxiety Basil gets:

We pull down the ladder in our bedroom which makes a lot of noise in the first place, then we proceed to climb up a rickety ladder into a dark hole in the ceiling — one Basil doesn't know how to climb. He sits and stares up at us, lightly whining:

Sometimes he will even place a front paw on the first step of the ladder as if he is thinking about trying to climb it. We always wonder what he is thinking about when we go up there — it's pretty funny.

We also had a small faux topiary tree in the family room this year:

It wouldn't be Christmas without the sentimental decorations we look forward to bringing out each year. One of our favorites is this old Santa photo holder that displays 6 different photos from Christmases during Tim's childhood:

We placed those on the front secretary desk along with the little diy deer and wooden stamp vignette we made earlier:

Tim's parents brought this mistletoe decoration over to our house this year as a present for Tim's son, Brandon. We will keep it here until Brandon has a house of his own and is ready to put it up each year. Tim's mother teared up as she explained how it's been a decoration they've put up year after year over the past 40 years, remembering how Tim and his brother, Mike, would try to jump up and hit it each year to gauge how tall they'd grown over the past year:

I'm looking forward to bringing this new-to-us decoration out over the next several years until it's Brandon's turn to carry on the tradition.

The following little Christmas house is one I look forward to pulling out each year. It's a house my grandmother made that has those old school colored glass bulbs inside that actually rotate to make the marbles on the roof of the house change color every so often:

I remember when my parents would pull it out each year and I would just sit and watch it change colors, wondering how it worked. Here it is all lit up at night:

It's also Basil approved:

All in all, as you've probably gathered, we were excited to get all of our collective decorations out and use them this year. It's been the first official year we've really pulled everything out, had a tree and decorated the house all at once (we'd either been in the middle of moving, living in separate homes or just in a transitional year). We're already looking forward to how we'll put it all together and add to the fun this time next year.

How about you? Did you decorate this year or are you in one of those transitional stages where it just didn't pan out? Do you have sentimental ornaments or pieces of decor you look forward to bringing out and enjoying over the holidays each year?