Category Archives: home


How is it that project task lists multiply? We started with a two-step plan when our oven stopped working.

Step one: get a gas line installed
Step two: buy a new gas range

And then we decided that before our new stove is delivered, we might as well re-do the kitchen floors since you can’t just unplug a gas oven and move it out of the kitchen. And by some miracle, we pulled off installation of a new floor before the range was delivered and installed, although we still had to polish it.

Eventually we managed to get all 7 layers of polish. Seven! But since all the furniture and kitchen gadgets are out of the kitchen (and as you can imagine, I have A LOT of kitchen gadgets), we might as well paint the walls, right?

You would if your kitchen came with stenciled vines and beige and green walls. It seems worth it, but it is hard to squeeze all these projects in between late-spring/early-summer activities and busy work weeks. And I haven’t even mentioned that the painting led to replacing the cheap trim and also removing and replacing filthy caulk. And every single one of these tasks takes way longer and way more trips to the hardware store than you could anticipate. Our house has been chaotic for weeks as a result.

US, Sweden, and Washington flags all at half-mast on Memorial Day

We are SO close to being finished. And we celebrated “almost finished” with a trip to IKEA where we failed to find new window treatments.

Of course, a trip to IKEA means we have to squeeze in some Seattle food, right? Jess found us an incredible food experience in Katsu Burger. The burgers are different kinds of meat or tofu breaded in panko and fried, served on a giant sesame bun and topped with amazing sauces, pickles, or in some cases wasabi coleslaw.

They were the most gigantic burgers I have ever been served. Veggie burgers aren’t typically gigantic. Levi had a curry pork cutlet.

And then there were the fries. Oh my god. We shared an order of nori fries and curry fries with dipping sauces like wasabi mayo and a spicy mayo made with sriracha and magic.

And to complete the meal – milkshakes! Green tea pineapple and kinako cup (kinako, chocolate, and black sesame). Wow.

The perfect weekend is a careful balance of hard work accomplished and some fun. Sunshine and junk food help. And a bonus chicken Instagram (create your own caption, it’s fun):

My weekend still has one last day. Back to painting, caulking (say “caulk” a dozen times in front of a teenage boy and try not to laugh), and mitering for me.

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Filed under family, food, goals, home

The 48-hour kitchen makeover

Our oven died recently at a very inconvenient moment. We decided to seize the opportunity to convert to a gas range. Then we decided that we should re-do our kitchen floor before the new stove is installed. One thing led to another, and it seemed like while we’re re-doing the floors, we should replace the baseboards. And it would be nice to paint the kitchen too. This led to a frenzied 48 hour marathon of tile shopping, watching adhesive dry, being covered in glue and agreeing on the perfect shade of white paint. This is what our weekend looked like.

We loved the Armstrong VCT sample kit.

The gray grime is a leveling compound. The blue X marks the center of the room.

Low-VOC adhesive.

The borderlands.

The tile roller weighs 100 pounds!

We’re so pleased with the results.

We’ll work on before/after glamour shots once we can move all the furniture back to the proper place. Our new range arrives tomorrow. We have more painting, spackling and baseboard installation to do, and we need to seal/polish the new floor when the adhesive is cured, but I feel great about how much we accomplished in two days. These kitchen projects have been on our list since we bought our house and it’s exhilarating to cross them off.


Filed under home

under the bed storage drawers

Awhile back we got a new bed. Headboard, frame, mattress – the works. It was (and still is) pretty luxurious after a long time with a falling apart frame that was the wrong size for our room. The leftover pieces of pine from the old bed frame were so much prettier than the stuff from the hardware store, I couldn’t throw them away. Instead I turned them into something we needed: storage drawers to go under the bed. These simple wooden boxes on casters have proven to be very useful in our little house in need of places to tuck things away.


Filed under home

Ikea’s Jam Factory Kitchen: When Can I Move In?

Our list of perpetual projects includes a kitchen remodel someday. I collect images of inspiration constantly, but yesterday Ikea posted the best kitchen on the Swedish Ikea blog. They call it Jam Factory. Everything I know about this kitchen is based on the Google Chrome translation from Swedish to English, so be gentle.

This kitchen has a lot of work space and a lot of storage space. There is plenty of room for a few stock pots. There are lots of shelves to store your jammed treasures and several baskets of lemons and limes. There are fresh herbs within an arm’s reach so you can tarragon your cherry preserves or basil up your strawberry marmalade. Over the island, they hung good lighting, which comes in handy if you find yourself hulling strawberries in the wee hours of the morning. There is a scale to measure your ingredients by weight, of course. I spotted a jelly bag draining on a shelf and at least nine different kinds of large metal spoons. I only hope there is a commercial stove just out of the photo’s frame with six big burners on so you can process everything at once and an oven so you can bake enough bread to eat all the jam. See more photos of the jam factory & links to all the Ikea pieces you need to build your own here. We were in no way compensated by Ikea for this post.

Photo: Carl Kleiner for Ikea


Filed under food, home

DIY dishwasher detergent

I have tried a few different “eco-friendly” automatic dishwasher detergents over the years, and have always been displeased with spending so much money to get such unreliable results. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that living with a septic system in our new house has caused me to be a lot more aware of the crap that we dump down the drain. Since we’ve lived here, we clean almost everything with good ol’ vinegar and sometimes borax. The toxic dishwasher detergent was probably the last bad guy hanging around the house, and now the box is almost gone.

Instead of spending a lot more money on another package of “green” stuff from the store, I decided to finally make my own using these instructions. We already use vinegar as our rinsing agent. Really, why pay $5 for a tiny bottle of Jet-Dry when we already have vinegar around the house and paid less for big gallon jug?

I only had to buy two ingredients: washing soda (found in the laundry detergent aisle at many stores and useful for other home cleaning purposes) and citric acid.

I was concerned that citric acid would be hard to find, but I stopped at the closest home brew store and success! It was $2.49 for 4 ounces of which I used half.

Into an old yogurt container went:

1/2 cup borax
1/2 cup washing soda
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup citric acid

Mixed it all up in under 5 minutes and used a tablespoon on the low energy cycle of our dishwasher. Success! I’ve only tried one load but it looks sparkling clean.

Between this and the DIY repair on my dishwasher that cost only $11 (thank you internet, how did I ever navigate through life without you?), this is cause for celebration.

xo Krista


Filed under home

Dispatches from Olympia

Forget April Showers. We are specializing in HAIL this year. Being pelted by hail for the last three days has had a very strange affect on me. I feel like I am constantly at risk of attack from above! The trade-off has been some ethereal sunrises.

I am trying to convince Krista that we should turn one of the trees in our front yard into a snag because snags are an important part of forest ecology, and technically our yard would be a forest if, you know, they didn’t build a town here. While I could make the case that urban snags are ecologically critical, and I would be right, I really think that a deliberate snag in our yard would be an amazing architectural form. Krista is not terribly resistant to this plan, and I think that 1 or 2 visits to deliberate urban snags around town would convince her. I mean, snags are like the new garden gnome, right? They should be. Here’s an example of one I spotted on a garden tour of Olympia in a recent naturescaping class (for my Master Gardener training).


Filed under home, spring

if life is a game, i win

I know everyone probably (hopefully) loves their spouse, but it’s hard to believe that I’m not the most spoiled, pampered, indulged person. First, when we were discussing the garden, Krista said to me, “Just buy whatever seeds you want. We can grow whatever you want. It’s better to have too many seeds.” Do you know what that sounds like to a person who reads seed catalogs for fun? All I could say was, I totally agree and I totally love you.

Then, Krista took it upon herself to learn how to use power tools – table saws, circular saws, drills and other tools I probably don’t even know about – to make a raised bed for our garden. I came home from work and found it in the driveway. And she still had 10 fingers! Then, she built some more.

Isn’t it beautiful?? And you should see how cute she looks in her safety goggles. The beds are all 8′ long, and today Krista measured out all of my seed packets on top of one bed. Seed packages, asparagus crowns, rhubarb roots, and seed potatoes. It’s a little ridiculous that there are more than 8 feet of seed packets in my house, but I’m so thrilled by the seeds we chose.

So, these are the first photos of our 2010 garden. Baby photos, or, like, embryo photos of the garden. I really hope I’m done buying seeds and stuff now. Well, mostly done. You know how it goes.

While Krista may have been a little surprised at the volume of seeds we own now, she didn’t miss a beat. Her reaction was to build a muppet face out of the rhubarb root, an asparagus crown, and a few seed potatoes. This is the sort of thing that affirms your belief in the awesomeness of your marriage. It’s like always being on the winningest team.


Filed under home, marriage, spring, urban farming

such great heights

One of the big garden trends now is vertical gardening. It’s generally touted as ideal for maximizing the vertical growing capacity of a city – apartment dwellers with living walls, office buildings blanketed in lettuce greens, and so on. So, predictably, there was a lot of vertical gardening at the Northwest Flower & Garden show last weekend. To our delight, many of them were growing strawberry plants. The demonstration gardens were inspirational, jump starting conversations about how we can integrate vertical gardening into our own home. Of course, you can’t just use the same techniques from a demonstration garden that lasts for 5 days for your wall or fence – which will, hopefully, last much longer, but it’s a good starting place. We have a quarter acre of land – an almost luxurious amount of space – but we have big dreams for the stuff we’re going to grow. We’re trying to think vertical as we’re creating the garden to avoid problems later when it’s harder to change and fit things in. So, here is a rundown of some of the things we’re thinking about.

This classy vertical garden made from thick gray felt was in “The City Comes Alive,” the demo garden by Solterra Systems. This was the first vertical growing we saw when we walked in, but it stuck with me all day. It reminds me of Woolly Pockets. I am strangely fascinated with Woolly Pockets, and that fascinated transferred easily to this beautiful felt pocket wall.

This living fence in the WSNLA demo garden is growing strawberries! Krista liked this so ladder design so much. I think she was ready to take this home with us. I would not have stopped her, but I think the gardens have their own security.

The Seattle Urban Farm Co. built this “Crops for Clunkers” garden, and in lieu of bumpers and side panels, the truck was sprouting strawberries. This was one of the highlights of the show for me. I have too many feelings about it; I need to write about it separately.

This was in the container garden display section of the show. It makes me want to remodel our bathroom. In addition to that great wall, I was in love with the mossy bath mat, which reminded me of another moss bathmat I wish I owned. The powers that be need to hurry up and produce moss bath mats for mass consumption!

Most of these walls were simply potted plants stacked into a frame, which worked well enough for the garden show. It is not what I would want for my backyard as a long-term vertical garden solution, but it’s food for thought. I would love a strawberry fence or wall, but I would love it more if it lasted for years and had some irrigation built in.


Filed under home, urban farming, winter

marmoleum, linoleum, schmanoleum

We finally went shopping for marmoleum.

Okay, I’ll be honest. I had no idea what marmoleum was a couple weeks ago. If you’re in the same predicament as the two-week-ago me, I’ll try to help you out a little. I cringe when I hear myself use the word “green,” but it is creeping more and more into our vocabularies, especially as we try to work on our house. In general, we’d like to have a “green” home. As we decide what to put in our house, there are all kinds of green options available these days. Most of you who read this know us; we have both been little granola vegetarians since we were kids. You can be pretty passionate about the environment and still have a lot of room for improvement, and we are far from perfect. It is challenging to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to purchasing things that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars and you are trying to just do little DIY projects here and there over time. It is even more challenging to wade through the mass marketing of “green”. How do you tell what products really are good for us and the planet in this day and age, when you can buy USDA certified organic pancake batter in a pressurized can?

Anyway, to put it simply, marmoleum is like environmentally friendly linoleum, except what we know of as linoleum today is actually polyvinyl chloride. The real, old school linoleum was made out of stuff like linseed oil, rosin, ground cork dust, and wood flour. So I guess the stuff we call marmoleum is true linoleum. Jess snapped this handy photo of the display at the fancy flooring store downtown to show you the marmoleum ingredients:

Pretty simple. The idea of having something in our house that is natural and less likely to offgas toxic crap is appealing. And my allergies are only getting worse. This week I had an insane allergy attack that my two prescription medications couldn’t tackle, and I ended up home from work for two days in a Benadryl stupor. I really hate missing work. So this stuff is really appealing to us for the kitchen floor. We heard you can even get “click” marmoleum that snaps into place without glue and is pretty easy to do yourself. We’ve both been really drawn to the idea of good ol’ checkered floors in the kitchen.

Image from apartment therapy. Here’s just one of their posts about checkered floors.

We had in mind some variation on checkered with charcoal, light gray, and off-white. Then we looked at the samples up close, stepping all over them and sitting on the floor with them for over an hour. It didn’t take long to learn:

– we were drawn to the nostalgia of the linoleum we remember from our school years, and DO NOT WANT marmoleum that looks like faux granite, faux marble, or practically like it has been sponge painted

– while some of the bright colors were appealing, we didn’t like any of the limited offerings that come in click

– this means we either have to get pre-cut 13″ square tiles or sheets, both which have to be installed with glue and (preferably) by a professional

– we also didn’t like any of the offerings that came in 13″ tiles, so no way in hell will we be able to try to do this project ourselves

Honestly, we didn’t care for almost any of it, but I spotted a Dutch Design line and both of us fell instantly love with a bright green (???). There was also a red I really liked, but red just isn’t going to work for what we have in mind.

The patient employees let us take home the samples we settled on: Scrabble (white with black flecks), Galentine (dark gray flecked, looks less granite-y from 5’8″ above the floor), and Painted Fields (that amazing green by Dutch designer Kiki van Eijk, with flecks of pink and dark brown when you look at it up close).

I really believe in putting stuff we love in our house, and the rest of the kitchen is going to be almost entirely white. So we could get away with accents of bright green on our otherwise gray and white floor. I think it could look really sharp, but will it look insane five or ten years from now? And do we want to pay someone lots of money to install this, especially considering it may need to be touched up when we replace the cabinets that are currently touching the floors? Stay tuned. I think the next step is to shop for polyvinyl chloride “linoleum” and see how easily we could install that ourselves and exactly how much money we are talking about.

In the meantime, I have been playing with patterns in Photoshop:


chain links!

I think Jess is leaning toward this:


Filed under goals, home

baby steps

So we bought this new house, right? Okay, it is not really a new house. It is a 75 year-old house, but you know what I mean. When we were house hunting we quickly learned that no house is going to be exactly what we wanted. We have pretty particular tastes, and no house is perfect for us down to every piece of trim and window sill and door knob. We also quickly learned that prioritizing the location of our house put most of the truly amazing houses way out of our price range. We could have bought a gorgeous old Victorian house if we wanted to commute 45 minutes each way to work, but in the end it was important for us to be in Olympia proper, in the good school district, by the best high school, and near downtown. Did you know the internet has the tools to quickly look up the walkability of an address? This is just one of the many things we researched everytime we found a new listing.

What I am trying to get at here is that our house ain’t perfect. There are things we love, things we like, things we tolerate, and even some things we despise. I finally decided that I couldn’t look at these despicable kitchen cabinet pulls another single day:

But what do we get to replace the pulls on the cabinets when we really don’t like the cabinets themselves? We talked and talked and talked about painting the existing ones white. Ultimately, we are going to have white cabinets in our kitchen. I put my foot down, though. I know that I still will not like these cabinets if they are white, and we would end up spending a lot of time and money and still not love them. They aren’t our style and they don’t maximize the space, which is a precious commodity in our 1100 square foot home. So here lies the dilemma. We had to buy cabinet pulls that will look good on our future dream cupboards as well as our current less desirable ones. And here you have it:



Black milk glass 3″ pulls from D. Lawless Hardware for $3.95 a piece plus the shipping was free! Please excuse the crappy flash photography. I really can’t wait for longer daylight hours.

Now those babies are really going to look awesome on our future cupboards, and in the meantime I don’t have those garish gold monstrosities with faux wooden beads in my face every time I go to pour myself a bowl of Trader Joe’s Organic High Fiber O’s.


Filed under home