Monday, October 31, 2011

Stormy Weather • No Power • Off Line!

We were hit hard by the freak snow storm that stormed through Connecticut on Saturday night. About 10" of very wet heavy snow fell but what made this difficult was that many trees still had their leaves.  The weight of the wet snow bent them low and for many, well past breaking point. Many of our trees lost their tops. We will be with out power, Internet and telephone for some time to come.  Today we traveled to find wireless service and gasoline.  Blog posts will be intermittent as we try to keep things going. We did take photos and I'll share a few with you.  It was very beautiful as the sun came up on Sunday morning!

I'll start with this one of the leaves. The beech grove on our front hill was devastated because the leaves were in their glory.  Fire and Ice is a great name for this image.

The front hill is just a jumble of tree tops.

The bridge we constructed is scenic in all seasons!

Here are two of the three deer that have been breakfasting on my garden every day. 

The cement sphere sculpture, "Lost Marbles" looked wonderful in the snow.

And here is the first of the problems. This tree is sitting on the wires.  There are six more of these along our road.  As I said at the beginning- we are going to be out of communication for many days!

And here is Trilogy, the large pyramid sculpture in the snow.

Hopefully you have power, Internet, and cell service where you are!

©2011 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kitchen Storage • A New DIY Solution

I have a special kitchen. It is special because it was designed and installed 15 years after we built the house. Using a kitchen for that number of years makes it abundantly clear what its short comings are and I worked to eliminate them on this second go round. To be fair, the initial kitchen was done on a less than shoestring budget. But I knew all my stuff and I designed cabinet spaces for it. I have a wonderful closet designed just for the extra leaves in our dining table. It is right here.

Great use for a long and skinny space! But I knew I was short on drawer space (because I wanted two realistic flatware drawers with spaces for all the pieces of cutlery, not just knives, forks and spoons!) As a result my drawer for wraps, foils and baggies isn't large enough.  It is in the island and has the critical stuff but the baggies got relegated to sharing space with the table leaves and that was not a good situation.

I have been brainstorming solutions because the problem wasn't lack of space, just workable use of the space. I was stacking the baggie boxes in between the leaves and it was guaranteed that the size I needed was always on the bottom. I looked for wire racks and didn't find any solutions. I knew I wanted to mount the boxes on the door so all would be easily accessible. The idea I implemented today is to velcro the boxes to the door!


Velcro - both adhesive backed and plain
1" elastic - black
Black Thread

The Process:
With the 1" wide black elastic I sewed large elastic straps for each of the box sizes I store here. I made them a little snug so they had to stretch to fit around the boxes.

I also purchased both plain and adhesive backed velcro. I used the adhesive backed and attached a strip right to the inside of the cabinet door.

I used the non-adhesive type and sewed 3-4 dashes of velcro to the elastic straps. I don't like sewing with adhesive backed materials on my sewing machine. It gums things up.

Stretch the elastic around the box and stick it to the velcro on the door.  Position it so the box opening is to the front and you have easy access to four boxes of plastic bags!

This was a DIY quick solution.  It didn't take much time at all - less than two hours and would have been quicker if I wasn't having issues with my sewing machine.

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©2011 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Friday, October 28, 2011

Snappy Tree Decals

I have blogged before about using decals for decorating.  I wish my home had endless walls because I would love to decorate some with decals. This fairly new concept allows an inexperienced designer to experiment with wild ideas. Get a decal, apply it. Like it? Live with it. Grow bored with it? Change it. Hate it? Peel it off. It would have been such a great solution to my daughters' rooms as they grew up.

Decals are on my mind again because of a sale going on at of decals from the Canadian company ADzif. Several just made me smile. I love these trees. Don't have room for a Christmas tree? Get one of these and tack ornaments on it!

Or just the leaf. Imagine a row of these.

Reality is my walls are precious space. I live in a passive solar house with large windows and an open floor plan so there is limited wall space. And I have a growing collection of art including my husband's sculptures so no space for decals. Although maybe the upstairs bathroom could use a few!

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©2011 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Woodland Bridge

This past July David and I, along with the help of Amy, Josh and Taylor built a woodland bridge spanning a steam on our property. I blogged about the project here. The bridge has become a focal point of our walks. We incorporate it into our daly trek through the woods generally once in each direction.  Fall has descended upon southern New England so I decided to share with you the bridge during this season.

This first photo is from right in front of the house. You can just see the bridge off in the woods right in the center of the picture. I expect it will be more visible once winter arrives.

This is a much closer view looking downstream. Of all the years to decide to build a bridge this has been the perfect one. It just keeps raining and there has been a constant flow of water all season. It makes a good rainstorm less gloomy when you get to go watch the water rushing under the bridge.

We have blazed a path that wraps along the far hillside and descends into the hollow below.  Here is the view of the bridge looking upstream.

It looks great surrounded by the fall colors!

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©2011 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fabric Pumpkins • DIY Ideas

There are tons of ideas on the blogs for Halloween decor. I am especially drawn to these fabric pumpkins ideas.

This quartet is the subject of a complete tutorial over on Polka Dot Bungalow. Adding the one plaid pumpkin to this grouping makes it. That and the curlicue stems.

And from The Pursuit of Happiness Blog - another DIY fabric pumpkin.

I am always amazed by how I am am drawn to those items in the natural color palette.  We try to add color to our home and always choose the subtle tones. Although I do have a true to life real orange pumpkin!

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©2011 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Post Its • For Forgettable Me

Oh, what a clever, whimsical idea!

I hope they are available in colors to match my wardrobe!

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©2011 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ghostly Table

I love this table!

It is nothing more than the table cloth! Draped in plastic. The table is totally absent and all that remains is negative space. This table was designed by John Brauer in 2005 and is available from online Unica Home.

It especially makes me smile during this season. If I owned one I would put black eyes on it and a soft flickering light under it. Instant Halloween decor!

The original is also available as a translucent illusion table as well.

I am not sure which one I like the most.  

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©2011 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stone Wall Complete!

Today I have a sore back and soaring spirits. Yesterday I finished THE WALL. I have been working on this wall for 4 1/2 years and it is now done measuring in at 587 feet long! I have built many, many stonewalls during my years here on Ashbee Hill but this is by far the longest. Here is the final end cap finished on Saturday, October 22, 2011.

It ends the same way it began - in a fairly plain Jane fashion but oh, the beauty in the details in between! Below is an end cap leading to a bar way with a rock that was just going to stay right where it was.

The wall makes a right angle turn at about the 300 foot point with half running east-west and half going north-south.

It has 3 tree circles - locations where I had to route the wall around trees that were in the way.

And six bar ways for walkers to pass through.

The project started in the spring of 2007 because I was cleaning up the edge of the back yard. That is where this particular wall starts.  There was an old wall there, never built as a wall but more as a pile of rock to clear the field. I started rebuilding. This project was more challenging than many of my walls because I was using the rock that was there - or more precisely just the "less than ideal" rock that was there. All good rock was being pulled and saved for important retaining walls down near the house. Here is the first section completed.

But then I just kept going. Here is a great shot of what the former wall looked like. I had to disassemble it before rebuilding.

I generally worked during the cool days of spring before the black flies arrived in May, then again in June until the deer ticks made working impossible. I didn't work during the hot summer months but would start up again as soon as the days started to cool in the fall and work until it was too cold. 

Watching the wall through all seasons has brought us much joy, even long before it was done.

Spring construction.......

It was so rewarding watch the green shoots start to appear all around me as I built.

Summer Sunshine....

Fall Foliage...

Winter White...

And then the winter of 2011 where we would ski right over the top of the wall.....

The wall borders an area we call "The Glade". Beautiful woodland grass grows naturally there and we have worked hard to clear the deadfall. We see it as a woodland garden, and we are building sculptures to populate it!

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©2011 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fire Engine Toddler Bed • DIY

Ok, I am jumping the gun here but I honestly can't wait any longer.  Back in July, we started a family project for our grandson. He loves fire engines and his daddy wanted to make him a fire engine bed. We started discussing and researching this months ago and decided it would be a cloth tent over a pvc pipe frame which slides over the end of the bed. It is almost done! Except for the ladders, mattress and bedspread. I just can't wait any longer to share it with you. Last weekend we delivered it to Taylor. Here are a few photos of it in his bedroom without the bed.

It is complete with windows and flashing lights. And on the inside there is a steering wheel! Here Taylor, dressed appropriately in fire engine jammies, demonstrates.

When completed, the structure will slide over the end of Taylor's bed and he can sit on his pillows and drive the fire engine instead of taking a nap!

And now for the how we did it. 
This won't be a step-by-step tutorial because we were finding our way as we created it.  We would need to build a second one to create a tutorial and who needs two fire engine beds.  I will try to give enough steps so that you could make one as well but it will require skill and creativity on your part.

We had saved daughter Amy's twin bed frame. We'd made it back when she was two and set to move to a big girl bed and now it is time for Taylor (Amy and Josh's son) to inherit it. Because we have the frame (but no mattress), we sized it to fit the frame.  I'd recommend you do the same. Get your measurements directly from the bed it will be used with.

Amy designed a pvc pipe structure and figured out the connectors that would be needed. For the common ones regular piping pieces from Lowe's worked fine but for some on the more unique angles she used a green house supply company online. She ordered all the connectors and had them delivered here for our shared vacation.

Working in David's shop, PVC pipe was cut to length according to the plan. It is relatively easy to work. A hack saw was used for initial cuts and a band saw for shorter pieces. 

The tent is made from two matching sides. Here is the first one assembled.

It went together quickly.  Amy and I constructed the PVC frame.  We had the bed set up in David's studio to fit it right to the bed. Here is a great shot of Taylor with the frame fitted over the end of the bed frame. When done it will slide right over the mattress as well.

Grampa made a sterring wheel so Taylor can drive around!

While we were making the PVC frame, Josh and David started on the ladders. When completed the design will have two ladders attached to the side which will serve has guard rails during Taylor's transition to the big boy bed. These were made out of standard 1 x 3 pine and wooden dowels.

If you have been following my blog you might remember the bridge construction project we completed last July. The fire engine project was started during the same vacation week and completion of the frame and ladders was as far as we got during the allotted time. Next part was sewing the "tent" and the goal was to teach Amy some basic sewing skills as we completed this project. She has a sewing machine and no idea how to thread it. I have no idea how I raised a daughter that doesn't know how to sew! Changing times I guess.

So, on our next trip to Pennsylvania in August (Amy Josh and Taylor live about a 4.5 hour drive from here) we loaded up the truck with the bed frame and all the fire engine parts. Amy had gone shopping at JoAnn's and purchased a heavy red cotton fabric for the fire engine and I had some clear vinyl for the windows.

Although we were planning to eventually cement the PVC piping together we hadn't yet. It certainly made transporting it easier. In the end we found it didn't need to be glued which is great. It will come apart for easy storage when Taylor tires of fire engines.

We used the actual PVC frame as our pattern to cut the fabric sides.

And then using the PVC frame just like a dressmaker's frame, we pinned the parts together. I taught Amy how to thread her sewing machine even creating a video on her iphone.  She can refer to the video when I am not there and she needs to thread the machine again.

Amy completed the basic tent structure - all three sides - learning to sew and finish straight seams. The first plan was to create ties and tie the tent to the pipes.  We were/are planning to paint the pvc black so we started creating black ties to hold it in place.  

This wasn't working well and we had run out of time again.  At this point the frame was disassembled and brought back to Connecticut. I was figuring it out as we went along and I couldn't leave the tent there with instructions for Amy because I didn't know what the instructions were to be!

Back at home I decided to switch to velcro fasteners.  The first group I attached were at the top and it work well but I had attached them parallel to the pipe.

The next batch I turned perpendicular to the pipe.  This allowed for adjustments and made placement much easier. I installed all the others the same way.  I put 3 sets on each of the horizontal pipes and 2 sets on each section of vertical pipe.

This technique allowed me to pull the tent taut. In fact it does such a good job that it holds the un-cemented pvc pipe tightly together. We have decided not to permanently attached them but to just leave them as is. Then it can be disassembled and easily stored.

Once I had mastered the attachment technique it was time to give this big red structure some character.  I took a trip to JoAnn's and roamed looking for the right materials. I knew I wanted to add a bumper, headlights and a grill.  I found a wonderful silver fabric for the bumper and decided to use silver ribbon to create the grill.

In the end I used some yellow fabric on hand for the head lights.  The silver fabric for the bumper was a nightmare. It was so slippery and stretchy that it bunched as I sewed it. I ripped it out and re-did it twice and still it is a major disappointment. Finally I just had to let it go. I had pinned it and basted it in place and still it puckered. The only good part was that it only looks silvery if it puckers. Otherwise it just looks black. Strange stuff.

Now it was time to figure out the windows.  I had some clear vinyl and had done a test example to see if I could sew it to the fabric. I was considering gluing it in place. But sewing worked fine. If I had been working from a pattern I would have put all the windows and decorations on each flat panel. I wasn't confident enough to do that so it made manipulating the entire tent through the sewing machine challenging.

I cut each of the three window patterns out of brown kraft paper and positioned them on the fire engine. I knew once I started cutting I was committed. You can see the brown pattern still attached on the side window. I then sewed red fabric to the front as if I was putting in a facing in a dress, cut out the center, clipped the corners, flipped it inside and pressed. I used classic dress sewing techniques and it worked well. I left enough fabric on the inside to fold over the edge of the vinyl and sewed that in place as well. I finished all three windows and finally others began to understand the concept!

We decided on a few finishing touches. I did a Google image search for Fire department symbols. I found a great one and added a rectangle and personalized it for the family in Adobe Illustrator. I printed it using and ink jet printer onto dark color transfer paper (purchased at Amazon) ironed it to fabric and appliqued it onto the sides of the engine. I could have ironed it directly onto the engine but I didn't have a back out plan that way and I had never used heat transfer paper before. Results were excellent!

David decided the fire engine wouldn't be complete with out flashing lights.  He found small bicycle LED lights online and purchase a set of four. We decided to install them on the front of the fire engine so Taylor could reach them and turn them on and off.  We also decided to make them capable of being clipped on or removed. That is the type of thing a little boy just might tend to abuse during nap time.

Last weekend we disassembled the fire engine and brought it down to Pennsylvania. Taylor is one happy little fireman. He gave his Gramzee a big thank you hug!

I promise to share photos of the completed fire engine once there is a bed with mattress, red bedspread and white ladders on the side.  It might even have a Dalmatian puppy!

Some end notes about this project. This design can be adapted to other themes - a fairy castle, a space station, etc. Just let your imagination soar. And doing family projects is a wonderful experience.

Update 11/11/11: The ladders were finally attached and the engine moved into place.  Here is a photo of the completed Fire Truck.

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The Gramzee Series

©2011 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy