Cubby for media and charging station

Long ago we had extended this wall to shrink the opening from kitchen to family room. When this wall was built we had carved out a niche that we used as a telephone station. But now who uses landlines? So it’s become a television for the chef to watch and a charging station for phones and other media.

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When we built the wall we had run electricity up to the area to power the answering machine. So in the rebuild we had the power but just needed to reconfigure how it would work to charge phones, tablets and television.

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The drywall was cut back to enlarge the area to fit a wall mounted television. Since this wasn’t a weight bearing wall we could do whatever we pleased on the hole and the framing. The electric box was turned so it could provide power on the right and the left side. It sits in the middle of the charging shelves.

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Next angled shelves were installed. These allow the phone or table to sit on a slant so when the door is open, the face of the device can be seen easily. When planning your own, just make sure that the size allows your hand to go into the cubby to pull out the phone; as these shelves were originally planned they were too tight for easy in and out, so we adjusted their size.

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The front was then framed out (as above) and doors were installed on hinges to fold down and up. These were recycled drawer fronts from the island drawers which I pulled out when we redid the island.

When building the unit, we matched the top height lintel and crown molding to the pantry door that was on the same wall as well as the breakfast bay window lintels. The entire thing is painted the same white as all the molding in the house.

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It really turned out looking good and its been great to have our phones and tablets so handy as this is the hub of the house!

Lemon and Vinegar garbage disposal cleanser

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I thought I had referenced this before in this blog, but I’m not seeing a post so here we go again.

We were going to need lemon juice for our peach recipes, so after draining out the juice, I cut the lemon rinds up, and stuck them into an empty ice cube tray. In the original recipe, you use lemons with the liquid and pulp intact but I find this is a good way to use up the lemon rinds from other projects. Pour in enough white vinegar to cover and freeze.

After they freeze, you can throw a few into the garbage disposal, sprinkle with baking soda, turn on the hot water and then start the disposal. Leaves a lovely lemon smell throughout the kitchen!

Blog change and some updates

Well here I am again! You probably thought I was gone for good! hahaha no, but I have been busy and need to update the blog.

First, I’m changing the blog name to my own domain: FrontPorchCozy which was a plan of mine about 2 years ago. The new blog has NO ADS. Yep, there will NEVER BE ADS HERE. So you don’t have to wade through a bunch of damn popups and crap that you see on these other decorating and remodeling blogs. Can’t stand ads and at this point this blog remains a PERSONAL project.

As the work on our Tulsa House slows down (as we will be selling in 2-3 years), we are moving our lives into a new direction which I think will interest you as it is related to this blog but different:

A. Downsizing. We, like many in the U.S. are trying to live within a limited budget especially as we are looking at retirement in about 15 years. We have a bigger goal of saving money by cutting expenses and improving our quality of life. This means reducing the big house with the big mortgage to reduce stress.

B. Travel. We are going to be looking at a lot of travel models that would fit what we want to do in order to increase our income: buying property that we will sublet out for vacationers. With that in mind, you’ll be seeing some videos and thoughts on different places we have visited and what worked for us and what didn’t as a traveler. Most, if not all, of this will be focused on small homes, cabins, and unique getaways such as glampers or alternative built homes.

C. Building and Remodeling. We will continue to wrap up work on the Tulsa House with the goal to sell it, while we explore other ways to build a new home with methods like Cob or Cordwood, using alternative energy like Solar.

I have a lot of projects I need to catch you up on in terms of photos and descriptions, which I’ll be getting too over the next month as I have time. So while this blog will probably never be a daily blog or maybe not even weekly, I will be posting some neat stuff that I hope you enjoy.

Meanwhile, you can catch more action over at our Facebook page Front Porch Cozy and at our Pinterest page.

Houses for Sale: Common search phrases

Just looked on Zillow, and these came up as common search terms for the someone looking for a house in my zipcode:

COMMON PHRASES:

Energy efficient windows
(we have solar screens, but might want to add in the listing the additional blown in insulation)
Fridge stay homes**
Large bonus room homes
Exercise room homes
Updated HVAC homes**
Two car garage homes**
Wood floor homes**
Covered back porch homes**
Huge pantry homes**
Hardwood entry homes**

** these features are in our home!

Links to inspiring kitchen images on Zillow:

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-7261969707/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-5567683432/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-7323365383/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-7439587386/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/contemporary-kitchens-5124113387/

 

New House Paint on the Exterior

The biggest cosmetic change over the last two months is that we repaired and painted the exterior of the house. Here’s some of the painting-after photos (the color is deceptive – this is gray with a brown undertone):

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The house still had its original paint color of when we built it 18 years ago – a khaki green color. The trim around the windows was really suffering as well as two areas where squirrels had taken advantage of wood rot to gain access to the attic.

The house was WAYY overdue for a repair and paint job! In the photo below, the paint is still drying on the left (and why it looks uneven) while the painter repairs our chimney stack. Boy, I can’t believe he got it done in 12 hours with just one helper!

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We had discussed possible paint colors with a real estate agent years back and she had recommended gray.  The brick on our house is a red color (no orange-red) and had a gray/smoky black accent brick. As you can see from the photos we have a unique mortar – called “weeping mortar” – it is not a mistake and some people like it (like us) and some people don’t.

We went around to some neighborhoods that were a notch above ours and scoped out a bunch of houses with brick about the color of ours that had painted the wood gray. Definitely liked it! However, we preferred the darker grays, not the light colors.

One thing we did not like was the really light color trim around the windows and roof trim. The white trim with dark color would look better in a Cape Cod neighborhood and with a house with alot more wood showing. For example, this house has a large wood facade over the garage, so the two colors of paint work! I also love the shutters!

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However, this style just didn’t suit or house and we both thought it chopped up the line of the house too much. Our front house profile actually has far more brick than wood and could handle a darker color in order to make a statement.

Some people make out doing exterior house paint more complicated then it needs to be. Since we are reselling in three years, I just needed a nice neutral that showed off the brick of the house, and would be acceptable to a large number of shoppers. I didn’t need the exact right shade of gray out of 20 different test paints.

1.) Drive thru neighborhoods with similar styled houses and take note of paint colors. Take photos.

2.) I had collected paint colors through Pinterest and read various blog comments etc… that were attached to popular colors in the color family I planned on using.

3.) Get some test paint samples and put on the house. Make sure the test paint is put on in a big enough area you can see it from a distance. Look at it in different lights and keep it up for a few days. See what you think.

4.) If not happy, go back to the paint store. Painting a house is a huge undertaking and expensive. Better to invest in some more test quarts than tell the painter to stop in the middle of the job!

5.) Paint!

Going darker, which we ended up doing, was taking our paint a little out of the comfort zone of many of the houses in our neighborhood. About 80 percent or more still sporting the same light taupe colors the builder had put on over two decades ago! We felt it was worth the risk as more expensive houses had gone darker in tone, and we wanted to stand out but not too much.

Our Painter uses Sherwin Williams so we tried two shades on the front entrance (French Gray was the lighter) and we decided on the darker color, 7019 Gauntlet Gray (the painter chose a Satin finish which I LOVE!). With the needed repairs, this was a $2,000 job for a professional house painter (someone we saw do a house in our neighborhood and who really impressed us with the work they did).

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I’ll get more photos once the sun comes back out. The brick color in the bottom before photo is more accurate. The top after photo was taken in really strong sunlight so the color is a bit off. New photos will be coming soon.

This is just the beginning of the house exterior redo – we plan on putting up shutters and doing a hardware accent on the garage, as well as new landscaping. However, after the big expenses we have had, I’m going back to smaller projects inside the house.

8 Tips for the best DIY Orange-Oil Dusting Rags

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There’s a couple of different versions of this recipe floating around the Pinterest boards. Over the year of making and using these I’ve found a few tricks that I’ll share here.

Oranges or Lemons – the procedure is the same regardless of what citrus you pick. Lemons gives a stronger smell than oranges which are milder. I find it easiest to sit down with a bag of oranges (bought on sale) and just peel and keep the segments back for snacking and the rinds for the cleaning project. If you try to collect as you eat oranges through the week the project drags on forever.

Clean Rags – T-shirt material is ideal as it is thin and you want something that will soak up the cleaning mix. Another option would be microfiber washcloths and I love the price at the Rag Company. If your using microfiber cloths plan on keeping the oil in a dispenser (like a recycled condiment bottle) and squeeze onto the washcloth instead of soaking it (soaking it would take a lot of oil to gain saturation).

Olive Oil – it is not necessary to use the expensive kind. Cheap is fine.

Vinegar – I prefer White Vinegar as it doesn’t have as strong a smell as Apple Cider. If using ACV it will overwhelm the citrus scent, FYI.

Essential Oil – optional for those who like a stronger citrus smell. I’ve added about 1 teaspoon per one batch (as described here). Luckily, citrus essential oils are some of the cheapest EO’s. Orange and Lemon are very affordable.

Containers – I started out using recycled glass spaghetti jars with lids but I’ve switched to quart or gallon sized, Freezer bags as I really like to tuck a baggie of dust rags in my cleaning bucket – one upstairs, one down, for quick access.

Solution:

1 c. water

1/2 c. vinegar

1/4 cup Olive Oil

10 Citrus fruits – trim off for the rinds – they should be dry – not wet! All pulp should be removed.

TIP #1: Cut your rinds into thin strips. This shape is easier to wrap cloth around and to tuck into the bag over the quarter/wedge size.

TIP #2: If orange peels are damp or wet, pat dry, and stick in a low temp (150 degree oven) to dry out for about 10 minutes. Let them cool before using.

TIP #3: Oil and water will continue to separate so whisk your liquids between each rag you are soaking.

TIP #4: If you mix in one large batch and dump in a rag, it will soak up ALL the oil, leaving you only with vinegar and water for the subsequent rags! Get a shallow pan, pour in a quarter cup or less of your mixed/whisked solution and put in a rag to wipe it up. Wring out the rag, wrap up your orange rinds inside and tuck into your plastic bag. Repeat. This way oil is spread evenly throughout your batch of cleaning rags.

TIP #5: Do not put used rags back in with the clean as this brings in contamination and starts mold. From my experience, these should last (unopened/unused) for at least 6 weeks maybe longer.

TIP #6: Once used these rags start to dirty up fast! Rinse in the sink and you can re-use immediately about two more times before there is no more oil in the rag to collect dust.

TIP #7: For best results, wait to use for at last two weeks after setting up. My only problem with these is I go through these very quickly and it takes so much time for them to set up. If you need dusting rags right away skip adding the fruit rinds and just go with the oil and vinegar to use immediately.

TIP #8: When wiping furniture, if you find it leaves too much oily residue to your liking, than go back over with a clean and dry microfiber cloth and next time you make the recipe cut the oil in half.

EXTRA TIP: A week after setting up a batch, doublecheck that nothing is molding. Sometimes despite your best efforts, mold enters and starts to spoil your batch. If caught early you might be able to save the rest by removing the offender.

I prefer these soaked cleaning rags over dusting spray. They work best over flat wooden surfaces like bookshelves, dressers, nightstands, sideboards, dining room tables, bed frames, etc… For my own cleaning routine they really work out for what I clean and how I do it!

My Favorite DIY Glass and Mirror Cleaner

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Most of these DIY cleaners simply don’t work (for example the popular Goo-Gone recipe of cheap oil and baking soda simply is not Goo-Gone and will never be). However, this is one recipe I came across that I’ve tested over the last year that is excellent for cleaning mirrors and glass. I’ve used it to bring a shine to my stove top too.

I mix it up at a gallon at a time in a clean kitty litter jug (with handle and lid properly labeled).

1 gallon of Distilled water (I use distilled because the water at my house is heavy in mineral content)
2 cups of Rubbing Alcohol
2 cups of White Vinegar (you could use Apple Cider but it increases the vinegar smell)

When I’m ready to finalize the mix into spray bottles I put 1 Tablespoon cornstarch to 2 cups of solution. Be sure to shake well before using as the Cornstarch likes to settle.

I also add 10 drops of Essential Oil. Some of my favorite cleaning EO’s include: Pine, Lemon, Lemon Eucalyptus, Orange, Lavender, and Rosemary. Be aware that some Essential Oils are packaged in oil (such as Vanilla and Rose) do not use these – as it will make your final solution oily.

Often most of these ingredients can be found on sale; here is an average cost of raw ingredients:

Distilled water (1 gal.) = .88
Rubbing Alcohol (16 oz) = $3.50
White Vinegar (1 gal.) = $2.50
Cornstarch (16 oz.) = $1.70

Essential Oils range from cheap (Orange at $8 a bottle) to expensive (Lavender at $35 a bottle) so that price is not included. Of course if you don’t use distilled water the price comes down a little more.

Homemade DIY cleanser is $.52 cents (2 cups) versus the same amount in Windex is $1.30. As I’ve gotten older I have found the smell of Windex more pungent. Not sure why that is but if you don’t like the smell of chemicals, going DIY on your cleaning solutions is smart.

I have three bathrooms so I leave a small spray bottle in each bathroom so mirrors can be cleaned whenever I grab a moment instead of searching around for cleaning solution downstairs when I’m upstairs.

Not all DIY cleansers are made equal. I’ve found many of these recipes don’t measure up but this one is easy, quick and effective! Great stuff!