A Change of Scenery…

I have been working from home for 8 years now.

After a while, I get tired of looking at the same things day in and day out.

The time has come for a change of scenery.

Things need some freshening up.

To keep me sane. To keep me interested. To keep me happy.

The first change was to get rid of the old terrarium.  Sad but true.

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It was time. This little terrarium was going on 3 years old. It was low maintenance, but that wasn’t enough to keep it around. It was the only indoor plant we had in the house – again, not enough to keep it. I liked the striped appearance of the leaves, but I just wanted something different. I was wanting some color in that little corner. So, the terrarium had to go.

Here is my new view of the kitchen from my workspace…

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I suspect you are wondering what all the hoopla is about – or not.  Well, the hoopla is about that little red pumpkin popping out against the sunny window .  It is likely a surprise to most people out there that something small like a little red pumpkin can make a big difference in my sanity. Well, I am here to tell you that it has and does make a difference. It sounds weird, but the color and the cute shape keep me from losing my mind when I am sitting at my desk – on a phone work meeting that is the same old monotony.  I love that little red pumpkin. Here he is close up…

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The other change I’ve recently made was the addition of some artwork along the ledge going down the stairs.  This is also visible from my workspace. It was feeling a bit tired and uninteresting.

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So, I went into the archives (aka the basement) and found some things that I already had. I like the bright pops of color from the two pieces on the right – the colors and contrasting graphics are easy to see from my desk. The two on the left with the white mats are also easy to see from my desk – so, that’s good. The two in the center are small prints and not easily studied from across the room. I think at some point I will move those somewhere else and replace with something more graphic and colorful. Finally, there is the ostrich print on the wall. Previously, that spot was taken by the black and white photo that is now on the ledge. The ostrich is brightly colored and funny. He makes me smile – so, that’s a plus when I am at my desk – trying to get through the monotony of my afternoon work.

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I think the artwork is also nice as you go down the stairs

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and up the stairs.

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The final changes involve improved comfort while working – and an addition of some stripes.

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The stripes are a bit of a stretch for me. I don’t love stripes. For me stripes feel a bit too structured, too formal, too linear, too expected, too monotonous (I promise this is the last reference to monotomy – ever). You get the picture. Stripes are not my thing.  With all that said, I went with stripes for my new area rug in my desk area – and I think I like it.  It brightens up the place.

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The finale is my new desk chair…

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I previously had an upholstered dining chair that I was using as a desk chair. It has worked out ok for the better part of 5ish years. Then, in January I noticed that my lower back and hips were stiff and sore after sitting in my desk chair for any period of time. Tad offered to let me try out his desk chair – Tad has been singing the praises of this chair for a year. I was resistant at first because I don’t really like the look of office furniture – especially in my house.  However, common sense and comfort finally won out. I tried Tad’s chair. It was a miracle – comfortable and ergonomic.  I was sold after one day. I ordered one up. It came in this week.  I had to pick it up downtown – where the parking and loading of things is not optimal. I got lucky that day though. I got a parking space about a half of a block away from the showroom so I only had to carry it a short distance. Oh – and there was 30 minutes left on the meter so I didn’t have to pay for parking. It was a good day – great parking space, money left on the meter, and the new green chair made it safe and sound to my car for transport. I am taking all that luck as a good sign. The green chair is meant to be in my life – even if it does still resemble office furniture.

I like it. It is comfortable. I just wish somebody out there would make a comfortable/ergonomic desk chair that looked like a dining room chair. That would be the ultimate best.

Anyway…

Tad’s is gray leather. Mine is spring green wool. Tad’s leather chair is softer – thus, maybe a bit nicer. Mine is prettier. I like pretty.

Here we are before the mini workspace makeover…

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Here we are now – after the mini workspace makeover with a new chair and a new area rug…

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It feels freshened up. I think it looks freshened up too. Now, if only my actual work would get freshened up…

A little DIY concrete project…

We’ve had this kinetic art piece for years. When we added on to our house, we took the piece down to protect it from getting broken during all the construction. It took us a couple of years, but we did finally get it re-installed last year.

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The project, however, was not officially completed – until now. Yes, a year later (and a lot of himming and hawing) we’ve got a completed artwork project! It is pretty exciting since our projects seem to be moving at a snail’s pace around here lately.

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Our dilemma was stagnant water…

Sitting water in the bottom of the planter where we installed the artwork was an invitation to the mosquitos in the summer and we all know that isn’t good. Also, the freeze and thaw of melted snow (aka sitting water) in the winter would eventually take its toll on the new planter. Simply put, we were wanting to do something to keep the water out of the planter year round.

We debated whether we would do some sort of a table top or a more complex table/plantscape thing.

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For a while I liked the idea of a table/plantscape, but I couldn’t really figure out how to make it work and maintain the integrity of the planter.  So, we ended up going with Tad’s original idea of a table top.  I spent June and July running around trying to pay other people to help me get this table top made.  Even with a very specific template in hand, all the stone fabricators I visited looked at me like I was crazy. Nobody shared my vision even though I thought it seemed pretty simple. I couldn’t get anyone to take on the project. I eventually decided we would need to take this on ourselves if I had any hope of ever seeing this thing finished. I decided on concrete. Tad was on board. We headed off to the home improvement store to get our supplies. All we really needed to get started was a bag of countertop concrete mix and some garden edging for our form. And, by the way, this edging was perfect with it’s organic, curved shape. It was exactly what I was looking for. We were feeling lucky!

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We already had everything else at home.

We used plywood and a plastic garbage bag for the bottom of our form. We didn’t want to buy the recommended melamine because it seemed like a waste for such a small outdoor project. We utilized a large plastic bag to protect the plywood.

We also had two 2X4s that Tad ripped in half (with a saw) – for the four sides of our form.

We needed a tube type object to create the opening in the center of the table top. We searched the hardware store and our house for an item of the correct size and shape. We found an old water bottle in our kitchen drawer. We were feeling double lucky that day – the perfect edging and then, the perfect sized tube thing for our form!

Unusual mold supplies

We had left over caulking to seal the form corners and bottom edge and prevent the concrete from seeping out of the form.

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Finally, I used some vegetable oil as a releasing agent.

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In about an hour, we had our form made, the concrete mixed, and it was poured. We were a little surprised how easy it was. Again, we were feeling pretty lucky. Things seemed to be moving along nicely.

18 hours later, we removed the form and had our table top.  The edge and bottom parts of the form easily fell away from the table top. The center water bottle was another story – even though it had been prepped with the vegetable oil. We ended up having to use a power saw to make a few cuts in the bottle then pry it out of the center hole with some pliers. It wasn’t all that difficult, but I was nervous that we would accidentally crack the concrete. We didn’t. Again, feeling lucky…

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We did a dry fit of the table top around the artwork pipe. It was p-e-r-f-e-c-t! I didn’t expect that. Nothing ever works out that perfectly the first time around! We were totally excited (and now feeling really lucky). So far, so good!

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The next step was to fill the small holes on the top with a slurry. This is where things started to go a bit wonky – aka, our luck sort of ran out.

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I discovered a big gouge from a big glop of caulking that we should have smoothed during the preparation phase. Lesson #1 – be diligent in making sure your caulking is minimal and very smooth before pouring concrete into the mold.

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I also wasn’t sure what to slurry with because the information out there is not really all that conclusive.  I think the best option would have been to save a little of our mix for repairs and slurrying – we didn’t think of that ahead of time. Lesson #2 – save a small amount of your mix for repairs. I ended up using what I had left over from other projects – mostly because I didn’t want to go out and buy a huge bag of stuff and have that left over as well. So, I started with left over thinset for my first slurry adventure. It worked pretty well – I think – other than it was a lot lighter in color than the countertop mix, creating a spotted look where the light gray thinset filled the air holes.  I don’t mind the look. It is kind of interesting. It sort of looks like aggregate, but it’s not.  The professionals would likely be horrified. Anyway, after the initial slurrying event, I still had to do something about the big gouge and some indents made by the not so smooth plastic bag at the bottom of the mold. I wouldn’t have had these indents if we had used melamine as recommended.  Lesson #3 – use melamine as recommended for a smooth table top.

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I decided to rough sand these indents by hand with a tile block hoping to make them less obvious.

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For my next slurry I decided to use some left over mortar (the stuff for brick laying). I patched in the big gouge and slurried the rest of the piece for a second time – with the mortar mix.

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It was then time for polishing the piece. I had to track down a specialty concrete shop to get a diamond pad or two for the sander/grinder. We polished the entire thing with our grinder and a 120 then 220 diamond pad. This is a photo of the “good” corner. The whole thing should have looked like this if I had paid attention to details like making sure the plastic bottom and caulking were smooth in the form.

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Unfortunately, after slurrying and polishing, the rest of the top still had some obvious imperfections…

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So, I decided to do a stain and hope that the imperfections would look better. I am not even going to tell you what I used for stain because it was a bit unconventional and officially untested.  Though, I will say that it is environmentally friendly, legal, and food safe.

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Anyway. As you can see, the stain is quite lovely. However, it did not disguise the imperfections.

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So. Then. I thought some artwork might be the answer to imperfection disguising.

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I was trying to mimic some of the details in our kinetic artwork with my table top art…

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It didn’t turn out exactly how I envisioned it. I was going for more of a transparent look than I got. The stain was heavy and definitely not transparent.  It felt a little like preschool art – not that there is anything wrong with preschool art. Plenty of preschool art is art worthy. The problem is that I am not a preschooler. Anyway, back from that tangent – I decided to try to sand/polish some the stain off once it dried.  Then, I put on one more layer of turquoise stain. This business of trying to make the artwork better took nearly a week. At one point, I thought about scrapping the whole thing and starting over because it wasn’t perfect (except for the hole created by the water bottle – that was still perfect). I finally came to my senses and decided perfect wasn’t necessary in this case. I put some concrete sealer on my “artwork”, let it dry for a few days, and called it good. A little rustic? A bit weathered? Kind of artsy?

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Tad suggested using some foam weather striping around the top of the planter to create a moldable seal between the planter and the top. It was a good suggestion.

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I like it more than I thought I would – despite all the imperfections. It seems to fit in pretty well with the eclectic, bright, and cheery thing we have going on out there.

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And, I have officially checked it off my To Do List.

I like that I’ve got somewhere to set my iced tea when I am relaxing (and thinking about my next project)…

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Wool in the laundry…

I would prefer not to use fabric sheets in the dryer mostly because they contain chemicals that are likely not good for us.

I like to use natural stuff when I can.

I also like to track an occasional package as it makes its way to me cross country – when I can’t find the desired item locally.

So, that brings me to my new wool balls for the laundry.

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They kind of look like art for the dryer, don’t they?

Hmm…

Art makes everything better – even laundry.

Anyway, I had gotten some dryer balls a few years back that were advertised to decrease laundry drying time and soften clothes.

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These spiked balls are plastic and worked pretty well, but are now falling apart. I have been finding the little blue plastic spikes in the dryer, in pockets, in socks, etc. It has been time for a new plan or at least some replacement dryer balls for a while now. Though, I wasn’t wanting to replace the plastic with more plastic.

I first saw wool dryer balls at a local store in my neighborhood. I was interested, just not ready to buy that day. I went back a few weeks later with the intent to buy, but they were all gone. I was told that they wouldn’t be getting any more in – at least for quite a while. I had made up my mind that I was getting wool dryer balls. When I get on a mission, there is no stopping me. I was on a mission. I wanted wool dryer balls. I widened my search locally for wool dryer balls. Believe it or not, I could not locate any wool balls to buy!

So, I turned the mission into a DIY my own wool balls.  I searched the internet for instructions, suggestions, etc.  I found many good DIY wool ball instructions.  I started compiling the list of supplies I needed to make the wool balls, only to discover that the cost to DIY was a bit pricey in comparison to the already made, ready to throw in the dryer ones.

In the interest of time, effort, and money – I decided to order up the ready made 100% wool dryer balls from across the country. And, I got to track my package as it made it’s trek to Colorado. It was an exciting week.

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As soon as these little wool balls arrived, I threw in a load of laundry.  I am happy to report that I do think they actually work as advertised – and they definitely work better than the plastic balls.  They are supposed to decrease laundry drying time and soften clothes in the dryer for 3 years. Time will tell.

Now – about static cling.

The wool dryer ball people say that the balls don’t eliminate static cling. So, they recommend 2 metal safety pins attached to an item in the dryer to eliminate static cling. After one load of laundry, the safety pin thing appeared to work great. After a few more loads of laundry, it doesn’t seem to work 100% of the time in completely eliminating static cling. I will say, though, that I think it works as well as a commercial dryer sheet.

Who knew.

Well, I guess, we all know now…