Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's Only Natural

Doug and I spent so many hours working on our beach cottage over the past year that when it was finished, all we wanted to do was admire our handiwork and relax.

So we did that.  For a couple of weekends, we spent most of our time sitting on the porch reading and hanging out with our pets.

But last weekend, we kind of woke up and realized that there was a whole marshy world to enjoy outside our cottage and we got moving.

The village below ours is Bowers Beach, and you can see the houses at the north end of Bowers from the southern end of Kitts Hummock. One day I mentioned to a neighbor that I wanted to walk there some day.  She told me that it was about 3 miles away, but that you can't actually get all the way to Bowers because the St. Jones River cuts through the beach there.

I wanted to see it for myself, so last Sunday morning, with the tide out, I decided to make the trek.  It was a great workout--6 miles on the beach is a lot tougher than 6 miles on pavement, but it's also a lot prettier. This is the view I had when I got close to where the river comes in:

The beach then curves around into where the river runs through Delaware's beautiful wetlands:

It was still kind of dark when I got there, but the sky brightened as I headed back toward Kitts Hummock:

After breakfast, Doug and I decided to venture over to the Ted Harvey Preserve, which is just west of our beach.  Doug had been there before, and he said we could probably walk out to the beach near the St. Jones on a dirt path through the preserve.  He was decked out for photography and wetland walking:

Unfortunately, I wasn't, and we discovered that the path was under water at this point because the tide was in, so that hike will have to wait for another day.  We have become very cognizant of the tides now that we're weekend warriors at the Bay.

But even with our plan foiled, we still had a wonderful day and got some great pictures....

of water, grasses, puffy white clouds, and blue skies:

of wildflowers:


and scrubby bushes with beautiful white blossoms:

Maybe next time we go down for the weekend, we can catch a low tide and make our way through the preserve on a new adventure.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Gems Among the Junk

Our beach cottage was advertised as "furnished," but if you've been reading this blog regularly, you know that the furnishings were really Dumpster fodder.

But as we tossed cracked glasses, rusty kitchen utensils, and mouse-eaten linens, we DID find a few items that were worth saving.

This Pyrex refrigerator dish, which now houses my string cheese supply, is one of my favorite finds:

It actually launched a collection--I have since added a set of bowls and a small refrigerator dish that we use for butter.  I'm still on the hunt for the largest bowl, as the set we found in a thrift store had only the three smallest ones.

The kitchen also yielded some enamelware pots:

and this cool red handled enamelware bowl:

Doug thinks this little pink electric clock from Westclox is ridiculously kitschy, but I couldn't resist it--come on, it has KITTENS on it (and it was made in the USA):

This wooden plaque seems to fit just perfectly with the wetlands setting of our cottage:

It still had the original $1.97 price tag on the back from W.T. Grant, which went out of business in 1976.

We also kept this mid-century ceiling light in the dining room:

This shot shows it lit over the table:

I'm glad we were able to find a few things worth keeping in the little cottage.  We like preserving the past whenever we can.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Showing it Off

Doug and I started taking pictures of our beach cottage before we even bought it, and we knew that once we were finished we wanted to create a photo book on Picaboo.

We had a lot of good photos--scattered everywhere from our phones to our computers and my iPad--but we didn't have a good set of "after" photos that were truly after--a lot of them were transitional shots taken before we bought that sign we couldn't resist at a yard sale, hung that last picture over a doorway, or added that last throw pillow to the bed.

I also couldn't get past the idea of how houses always look so perfect in the after shots in magazines.  The befores are always dingy, dirty, and depressing, while the afters are perfection--no trash cans, kitty scratching posts, or dog-eared magazines in sight.

So this weekend, since my talented husband is not only a hardcore DIYer but also a skilled professional photographer, I booked him for a professional shoot.

We moved all those unsightly things from one room to another and carefully "styled" everything, including a beautiful deep-red watermelon cut and carefully placed on the counter. Here's the finished kitchen:

Dining room:

Living room:


And screened porch:

We bought most of the furnishings and accessories at yard sales and thrift stores, got donations from friends, and even picked things up along the road.

Doug made our headboard and kitchen shelves from old doors and our kitchen countertops from a discarded laboratory bench. I made the quilts folded on the backs of the couches and covering our bed, and I sewed the curtains in our bedroom and the one across the opening below the sink from thrifted fabric. We splurged on a few things, including LED under-counter lighting for the kitchen, LL Bean lamps for the porch, and the LL Bean futon in the dining room.  The rugs are new, but they came at bargain prices from  We also bought new appliances, except for the stove, which came with the cottage.

As for the photo book, I'm afraid I'm getting a little carried away--I'm up to 54 pages already and haven't finished yet.  In addition to the new photos Doug took, we have sunrises and sunsets, beaches and marshes, the dog and the cat, and of course all of those horrible before pictures that I didn't include here because I've already showed them too many times.

And this one is a must:

For the first time in our lives, we were filling a Dumpster instead of diving in one.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Awnings Away

When we bought our little beach cottage, the trailer part of the structure still had its original aluminum awnings.  There were just two--one on the side by the front steps and the other on the front end of the trailer itself.  Doug and I planned to take them down, wire brush them, paint them with our trim color (SW Youthful Coral), and rehang them.  We really like to preserve old things as much as we can.

This picture shows them as they looked when we bought the place:

But unfortunately, when we took them down, we realized they really weren't salvageable.  They were badly corroded, and in some cases the cotter pins used to hold them in place had been replaced by nails.

Yeah, what a great idea that was, but it's what we've come to expect from the former owners--if there was a wrong way to "fix" something, that's what they did.

So we gave the aluminum pieces to a neighbor for recycling and started shopping.  We opted for Sunbrella fabric awnings, which created a whole new dilemma--color.  I was hoping to find coral and white stripes, but no luck.  With the whole house painted aqua, we didn't want any more of that color.  Black and white was an attractive combination, but it looked more "French cafe" than "beach cottage."

Then I saw gray and white stripes, and that seemed like a perfect fit.  We had painted both sets of exterior steps with gray porch paint, and the railings were white.

We ordered not only the two replacements, but a third extra-long one for the windows on the other side of trailer to make it look more balanced and to add interest on that side.

Last weekend, we installed them, and we love the result.  This picture makes me feel like I should be opening the window from inside and taking orders for tacos or hotdogs:

I love how the pines frame the house here:

Note the pink flamingos in this picture:

The installation process went better than we had expected, although it wasn't without drama.  To install the awning by the front steps, Doug had to use two ladders--a little one on the stop step and a big one on the ground--and two planks clamped together as a catwalk. I probably should have taken a picture, but I was too sick with worry about him killing himself to think about photography.

As a weekend bonus, I took Jodie on a long walk to the wildlife reserve beach and found another float for my collection:

We have now pronounced the project finished, but as all of our Facebook friends were so quick to remind us, if you own a house, you're never really finished.

Besides, that would be boring.  (Yeah, Doug, I know--you'd vote for boring right now.)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

To Connect or Not to Connect - That Was the Question

When we first bought our little beach cottage, we were way too busy mucking out other people's used toothbrushes, soiled bedding, and stained carpet to worry about whether we had cable TV or Internet access.

And to be honest, I wanted to be idealistic and think that our getaway should mean truly getting away--from our regular life, email, TV, surfing the web etc.

After we finished the inside of the place last fall, we did buy a TV with a built-in DVD player. The theory was that we would just watch movies while we were there.  And we did watch a few around the holidays.

We didn't go down much over the winter. The place isn't well insulated, and we have a beautiful fireplace in our cute little bungalow here in Newark--it's hard to leave that when the weather is cold and nasty.  Once spring came, we began working again--first on the screened porch and then on the outside.

And we continued to debate the cable and Internet issue.

Some of my idealism about getting away from it all was fading.  I think if you have a cabin in the woods where groups of friends or extended family gather for holidays and long weekends of board games and outdoor activities, then TV and internet are just a distraction.

But our place is mostly designed just for two, and although Doug and I always enjoy each other's company, the nights can get very long in the winter when it gets dark at 5:00.  We both love to read, but if that's what you've been doing all afternoon, you kind of want something different in the evening. And I really enjoy surfing the web--looking at maps on Google when I'm reading a novel, reading other people's blogs, looking at houses on Pinterest....

So I was tempted but still feeling cheap.  Yes, my ideals had flown out the window, but my control on the purse strings hadn't.

A recent call to Verizon changed my mind.  I discovered that we had been paying $19.95 a month for a box that we weren't using and another ridiculous amount for a landline that had been made obsolete by our smart phones.  The bottom line was that for about $45 a month over and above what we've been paying, we could have cable and Internet at the beach.


I forgot to mention that although Doug isn't a rabid football fan, he does like to watch games on Sunday afternoons.  From my point of view, it's all good if having cable at the beach encourages him to stay longer on Sunday afternoons.

Here he is today--after a weekend of installing awnings (stay tuned for my next post)--enjoying NFL opening day. He didn't even care that the Ravens weren't playing.

Now, we just have to lay in a supply of Yuenglings and pretzels.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Cat Vs. the Cabinet

A few months ago, I did a post about my solution to keeping my dog out of my cat's food.  I used a cooling rack to fence off the space underneath a freestanding butcher block and placed a stack of tins at the entrance, leaving a space just big enough for the cat to get through:

That entry proved to be one of my most popular posts ever.

But on Saturday, Doug and I went to Strasburg, PA, one of our favorite antiquing towns, and I fell in love with a vintage cabinet that I just had to have.  I love old porcelain-topped cabinets, but this one beat out any of the ones I've seen before.

It had a red top.  I love red.

And it wasn't just a plain red top--it had a stripe built into the edging:

We debated and debated about buying it.  It wasn't the money that was the issue--they were asking only $75 for it, and it was in pretty good shape.  Our problem now is where to put the things we fall in love with because we're running out of space.  We had to leave it behind on Saturday anyway, as we had driven up in my little Honda Civic.

But by noon the next day, we were in the SUV going back to get it.  I decided Pax could eat at the top of the steps that lead from our kitchen to our finished attic.  Jodie has had hip surgery and can't climb steps, so I knew the food would be safe from her on the next level, and Pax goes up and down multiple times a day because his litter box is in the upstairs bathroom. Besides, he's gotten a little chubby, and we figured it wouldn't hurt to make him work a little for his food.

So we got the cabinet home and started working on it.  I didn't take any before pix because it really wasn't a huge transformation.  But the shelf was thin and sagging, so Doug made me a new one out of a nice thick piece of plywood.  We also traded out the hardware, which wasn't original anyway.  Our kitchen cabinets have bin pulls (shown in the pictures below), so I got a bin pull for the drawer and a brushed nickel knob for the door.

I also discovered that it was already painted the same color as our cabinets, so I decided to give it a coat of paint to freshen it up.  Although I like the vintage chippy look, this wasn't vintage chippy, it was sad and peeling.  All of the paint around the legs was gone, suggesting that the piece had sat in someone's damp basement.  It looked like it was wearing some old brown boots.

It's now installed in the corner where the butcher block was before, and as Doug said, "It looks like it should have always been there." Even Pax seems to approve:

The best part is that we picked up some extra storage space, which we didn't have with the butcher block.  I guess this is now my red cabinet:

And of course, I had a great time rearranging things and moving stuff around.  I really like to rearrange stuff.