Welcome to Southern Comfort!

Hi, I'm Elizabeth and I invite you to grab a glass of sweet tea and join me as I (along with my husband, John) renovate our love nest. We're both born and raised in the south and love to share with you some of our favorite recipes, stories and our life. We hope you'll come back often!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How I Clean

I know, it's dirty business, but someone around here has to do it. I get question after question in email, facebook and even in person of how I clean and what we use. So I figured I'd oblige and let y'all all in on my little secrets.
Today is a dreary day here in NC. The temperature is hovering around 70 degrees and it's rainy, rainy rainy. This is my favorite kind of day to pull out the basket of cleaning supplies and get down (and dirty, sorry, I had to!) and scrub the house. Since we're stuck inside for the most part anyway, you might as well go ahead and get something accomplished.

Most of the time I start in the kitchen. Our kitchen gets the brunt of the dirt. With 2 doors (one leading to the drive-way, the other to the back deck), 2 adults and 1 doggie, it gets a lot of dirt through there, regardless of how hard I try to teach Maggie to wipe her paws. You can read more about the daily-state of our kitchen here.

First of all:
  • I start with de-cluttering.
We always have mail to be sorted, drinking glasses and odds and ends to be tidied up daily. A little secret from me to you is: John absolutely HATES doing dishes. He won't even put them in the dishwasher. So I end up being our household de-clutter-er for the kitchen. I don't mind because I'm addicted to instant gratification. Putting dishes in the dishwasher instantly makes the room look cleaner. And we all like that.

  • Start from the TOP  and move your way down.
Because working from the bottom up will only make your floors dirty as you go. If you work from the top and go down, all the dirt gets cleaned up from the floor last. Hooo-Rah! Wipe down your counters. I either use a dishcloth and my Martha Stewart All Purpose Cleaner from Home Depot. We've been really trying to move away from commercial cleaners and move to a more 'Earth friendly' option. So for Valentine's day this past year, John bought me the new line of Martha's organic cleaners. And I Loooooove them! I know, be jealous. My hubby can buy me cleaner for Valentines and his wife squeals with delight. He's a lucky man. :)

I clean the sink with a mixture of 1/4 Clorox (I know, not so earth friendly, but our sink gets Gaaarrose) I spray it in and let it sit while i work on the other counter tops.
For the stove-top (ours is flat) I used to clean using these cleaners, but I've found a much EASIER and 'Earth friendly' way of doing it. I get my dishcloth a little damp and sprinkle some Baking Soda on top. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Done. Way easier than making that paste with a Brillo pad etc. I try and do it every night after cooking, but sometimes it doesn't happen (like last night when I didn't want to miss a single second of Glee!).  It doesn't seem to matter how gunk ed on the stuff gets either. It's always pretty easy to clean. Wooot!

As for the floors, this is my nemesis. Now that we have laminate, the dust bunnies just roll across the floor and get stuck in corners. I have a three-step process for our floors (to get really clean). If I'm just doing a quick clean up, it's only 1 step. I'll go through it with you.
First, I pull out the vacuum cleaner. It pulls up all the big stuff. Normally this is all I do for a quick clean. But for a more thorough cleaning, then I add the mop with the dry micro-fiber cloth. It pulls up all those itty-bitty bits of debris. Best of all, then I just throw it in the wash.
To mop the floor, I add another micro-fiber cloth to the mop and clean using Martha's organic floor cleaner. Doesn't take 5 minutes.
(I know you're wondering why I use 2 cloths for the floor. Why not just use the first one twice and be done? I tried that, and I found all it did was swoosh around the dirt across the floor when I got it damp and didn't really pick it up. Not cool.) Besides, once I'm done I throw both cloths in the wash and I'm all done for the week. :)

  • Dusting
I dust every week using a micro-fiber cloth (love them!). They pick up EVERYTHING. I used Swiffer's for the longest time, but I didn't like how wasteful they were. So I did some research and everyone was raving about microfiber cloths. So I switched, and I'm so glad I did. Along with my cloth I use Pledge multi-surface cleaner. I wish there was an organic option out there for dusting. Does anyone know of one?

Here are a few more tips for those of you who love cleaning like me:
  • I'm terrified of dust-mites so I was our sheets weekly. I also vacuum our mattress while the sheets are off.
  • I like to cut up a lemon and throw it down the garbage disposal with some ice to sharpen the blades and make it smell good better.
  • Magic erasers make getting off soap-scum sooo much easier in the bathroom. If you don't have a magic eraser, try using a dryer sheet. I've done it both ways and they both work great.
  • I hate ironing. But when I do get around to it, there's nothing more frustrating than getting that burnt on gunk on whatever your ironing. So I clean the plate with a little scrubbing action with Baking Soda and my magic eraser. Presto!
  • Speaking of ironing, don't fill your water reservoir with tap water. Fill it with filtered water and it will help keep the minerals from depositing on your clothes.
  • I set our pillows out in the sun on nice days. Kills bacteria, and gives them that "sun-drenched" smell.
**note: I prefer to clean the house by myself. I put on some good music and my sweats and get-to-it. I've found I clean more thoroughly than John (he's more of a one wipe and go kind of cleaner). So he helps me declutter and do laundry (he rocks at laundry) while I stick to the deep cleaning. **

So that's how we keep the newly-wed nest clean from week to week. Any suggestions you have for cleaning? I'd love to hear!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Bathroom Files: The Toll it Took

When I posted about our bathroom makeover taking a toll on both of us and our house it wasn't a joke. As with any renovation, things come up unexpectedly. We're level-headed enough to accept that. What we didn't estimate was that what seemed like a pretty straightforward project ended up being anything but.

We started this project on a Saturday night at 10pm on a whim. What can I say? We're night owls. After earlier that day we had stripped the wallpaper (which you can read all about here) I was prepared to shut the door and continue on it another weekend. At 10pm that night we both found ourselves looking for something to do, and low and behold, we got to work extracting the vanity (which you can read about here), toilet and removing the old floor. By 12:30 am we had pretty much removed all we could and still weren't sleepy. So we laid the new floor.

We purchased some peel-and-stick tiles from Lowe's several months back. They were being discontinued and the price went down from $2.99 sq/ft. to $0.22 sq/ft. Since this bathroom is our guest bath, it doesn't get a whole lot of use, and we knew a peel-and-stick would be perfect for the space. So for just over $6.00 we had a whole new floor. It was a breeze to install too. Very quick and painless. Since the tiles were 12x12 we decided to lay them in a brick pattern to open up the room a little. It looks fabulous.

Eveything seems to be going ok so far right? Yep.
The next day we installed the vanity. We purchased it from Home Depot back last Christmas when they put it on sale for $39 (Score!). So it patiently sat in the guest bedroom until we installed it. Very straight-forward. Even installing the new faucet (which we paid full price for because there are some things we just don't want to scimp on) was pretty simple.

But the toilet. Oh. The toilet. We purchased our new toilet from Home Depot. We bought the same "low-flow" model we have in our master and love. After getting our knowledge on (youtube and google video are awesome for DIYers) we felt pretty sure we knew what we needed to do. We had even purchased a new (better quality, according to our friends at Ace) wax ring. Project = FAIL. Water seeped out from around the base of the toilet. It wasn't bad, but there was no way we could use it yet. So we did more research, and bought ANOTHER wax ring (once you use it and squish it, apparently it's un-usable again, so the box said). Attempt #2 = FAIL. Same problem. Crap. Repeat. FAIL.
 We'd been working on this toilet all. week. long. Each evening after work one of us would stop by the hardware store (they know us by name at this point I believe) while the other goes home and continues working onthe drywall project (from removing the door). Then we'd work on the toilet. By this point it was coming up on the next weekend. We had John's family coming in town to celebrate his birthday and we NEEDED to have the bathroom complete and useable (nothing like a timeline right?).
So Saturday morning rolls around and we think we've gotten everything pulled together. Hardware hung, walls painted, towels washed and hung, and FINALLY the toilet debacle has been conquered.

** I have no pictures of this step due to the frequency of removal and replacement, and frustration. Stupid toilet**
We enjoy a nice day with family. The bathroom is being used with no hiccups. Until that night. We notice water dripping into the living room while watching T.V. Ohmygodyou'vegottobekiddingme. We RUN upstairs and turn the water off at the source (again) John accidentally breaks the valve to the water source. Now we can't get the water to stop at all. We get it down to a drip, but a drip is still a drip with the toilet still leaking. No DIY video or youtube can help get us out of this one.

I get busy trying to find a plumber. On a Saturday. At 10pm. With luck, by midnight we are down $100 bucks,  have 3 wet towels, 1 large, water stain on the living room ceiling, 2 grumpy homeowners, 1 drunk and pissed plumber for calling him during his Saturday night (but no one forced him to answer our call) we have 1 fully installed and useable toilet.

Here it is 3 weeks later. We still have yet to turn on the water upstairs in fear the toilet will leak again. We are still living with the water stain in the living room.

Home projects never end...

What we did learn is: We are NOT plumbers. We are fairly good at dry-walling though. We will be hiring a plumber for all our needs in the master bath redo.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Last night while watching T.V. this happened:

This is the culprit:
We'll be picking up pea sized rocks for months. Great.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gram and the Traffic Barrell

I haven't ever mentioned Gram before on this dear blog. As I keep writing about our house, it only seems appropriate to mention Gram because she taught me so many of the things I need to know to keep our house running on a daily basis. Things like how to get a ketchup stain out of the couch (because this is where we eat dinner on a nightly basis.. no judging please), how to arrange the perfect flower arrangement, or how to keep voles from eating your bulbs and a slew of other fun (and helpful!) tid-bits for home ownership. She's quite the Martha Stewart in our family, and I'm so proud to follow in her footsteps. I'll see if I can't come up with a post of "what Gram taught me" sometime for y'all.

But for today, I need to introduce you to her. My mom's mom. She met my grandfather working in his CPA business back in the 1940's. From that moment on they were inseperable. From the country club, to golfing, hosting benefits and church festivities, they were quite the pair.

 As long as I've known her she's always had the same gray bun, the same glasses, the same smile. But there's more to Gram than meets the eye. She's spunky, and gets more so with each passing year. When she used to drive (she doesn't very much anymore because of her eye-sight) she'd speed to her destination. Literally FLY in her Buik LaSabre down the street, neighbors shouting and shaking their heads at my Grams lack of speed limit acknowledgement. If she's at a traffic light for too long, explatives seep from her lips. Even on the way to church. When someone isn't driving fast enough for her, she'd pass them (sometimes with a certain finger in the air, in her words "politely waving my disapproval of their driving"). This embarrassed me beyond belief when I was a pre-teen.
This brings me to the topic of this post,
There is one particular story that is a family favorite. It comes up for every celebration and always gets a good laugh out of everyone.
Back several years ago (mid nineties) I got sick at school. I was in middle school at the time (7th grade to be exact) and needed a ride home. My mom worked night shift as a labor and delivery nurse at the time and she was home sleeping. Gram lives 2 blocks from my parents house. Very helpful for days like this. So I call Gram to come pick me up. She says she'll be there in just a minute.
So I walk out to the front of the school to be picked up. It should only take about 10 minutes for her to get to me. I wait. I wait. And I wait. 30 minutes later and still no Gram. I start to get worried. Bad things start going through my head. A wreck? Breakdown? It'd be my fault for having her come get me. But I continue to wait.
FINALLY. I see the blue Buick. Relief. She's ok. I get in the car and ask what took so long.
I get a giggle from Gram.
Oh no.
What did she do?
More giggling.

Giggle. GiggleGiggle.

On the way to pick me up, she crossed a bridge (a large 4-lane) under construction. The lanes where marked by the big orange and white barrells. Gram got confused as to which was her lane. Swerved. Got back into the correct one. Continues driving.
The Buick begins making  a terrible noise! A noise she'd never heard before. She continues to drive thinking maybe it will work itself out.

It gets worse.
I can only imagine the look of confusion and wonder on her face.
Knowing she's only about 3 miles from a gas station, she decides to ride it out and make it to the repair shop.
The noise continues. It sounds like horrible screeching. It doesn't seem to be the brakes as she comes to a traffic light. The noise disappears.
Oh good. The car fixed itself she thinks.
She's sitting there waiting on the light to change and the lady in the car next to her is waving at ther. Gram waves back. Thinking, oh, now nice of her to say "hello". She's a nice stranger.
The light changes.
Traffic begins to move. The noise begins again.
It gets louder the faster she goes.
At this point, she's about 1/2 a mile from the gas station. She continues driving and feels relief knowing she made it.
A repair man comes to her window to see what the problem is. Gram explains how the car "just suddenly" started making this horrible noise."It wasn't doing it  when I left the house", she says.
The car repair man looks at the car. Gives the front a good look, looks back at Gram.
Looks at the front again.
Looks at Gram.
Calls his buddy over for some assistance.
Buddy looks at the front of the car.
Both of them look at Gram.
The first repair man steps to the window, "Ma'am. We can fix it. Won't take but a minute."
"Oh good. I'm on my way to pick up my grand-daughter" Says Gram.
"Ma'am, can you put the car in reverse for me"? asks the repair man.
As Gram reverses the car, the sound starts again. The front of the car lifts a little. Out pops one of those HUUUUGE orange and white barrells.
Complete silence from Gram.
Giggles from the repair men.
"Well how did that get there?!?!" yells Gram
Giggles from the repair men.

After figuring how how it happened and a good laugh, Gram was on her way. The noise, no longer.
She was telling me this story on the way home and as we passed back by the gas station, there was the barrell.
I'm sure the guys at the gas station got a good laugh that day. As did everyone else driving on Glenwood Avenue as this little old lady was driving down the highway (probably speeding) with a huge traffic barrell stuck under her front end.
Never will we let her live it down.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Bathroom Files: Complete!

 We started with a old, out-dated bathroom and ended up with a beautiful room I am so proud to show off. Now don't think this project was all cake and ice cream.. it took a toll on both of us.. and our house. But more on that later. Let's see the results!

Bathroom Before:


We replaced the vanity, toilet, light fixture, hardware, faucet, repainted, walled off the second doorway and installed a new floor.

I found this adorable medicine cabinet at Goodwill for $14.00

The mirror was my grandmothers. It was guilded gold when I recieved it, but with a little spraypaint magic, it came together.

Closer view of the details.

Remember how we talked about removing the extra door a couple posts ago? Accomplished! We now have a place for a towel bar where the door was. We painted 9" vertical stripes around the room using Martha Stewart paint from Home Depot in Talc and Bone colors (love her paint, goes one smooth, great finish, dries fast and NO VOC's). I just love the subtleness.

It is my new favorite room in the house. I'll do a post next on the cost and project breakdown. For now, just enjoy the prettiness. I am!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

cuddling up for fall

Last weekend was just amazing. It was a long weekend for us (yay!), and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. The temperatures brought that first true craving for fall; staying below 85 during the day and dipping into the 50s at night. We enjoyed crisp evening air,  open windows, beautiful blue skies, and fell asleep to the music of the crickets lull-a-bye.
With this kind of weather, it makes me want to decorate the house for the fall season ahead.. but we aren't quiiiiiite there yet. The first thing I like to do to prepare for fall is bring in those fluffy blankets, overstuffed pillows to make myself (and our guests) yearn to cuddle up in bed just a little longer on those cold mornings.
Here are a few deals I found for bedding that absolutely fits the bill for the fall/winter season. All these can be found RIGHT NOW for under $100 (all prices listed are for queen sizes).

First on our list is this beautiful bedding set from Target. With it's traditional floral in warm earth colors it just yearns for someone to cuddle up in with a cup of cocoa and a good book. Don't you think so?
Target: Fieldcrest Duvet set  in Rust $99.99

At first glance, I wasn't in love with this set, I admit. But the more I've looked at it the more I just love it! It's contemporary style paired with fun and whimsy squigglies make for a wonderful solution to winter bedding. I love that you can use this in a child's room or in a guest bedroom. Dress it up or down and you can't beat the price at only $39.99.. less for a twin bed.
Ikea 39.99

Doesn't this set just scream winter to you? Yes, I realize it's bamboo leaves, but to me it looks like birch trees in the snow on a cold winter afternoon. This set could easily pass you through from Fall to Spring, and hey, that just makes life easier. Simple, classic lines with a contemporary feel. Love.
overstock bamboo smoke $50.99

Who doesn't like Pottery Barn? I've never heard anyone say they didn't like their stuff. And who could resist this bedding set (on sale now!)? Classic bedding in creams, yellows, and soft brown. Dress it for fall with some cozy brown throws, add a splash of cranberry red for winter. This set could easily used year round too.
Pottery Barn Roman Stipe $70.99

This set took me a minute to like. At first I thought it looked too masculine, but cold is masculine, so why hide it?. The geometric shape reminded me of twigs, and twigs remind me of bare trees. Fall, Winter. Ahhh. The perfect solution for a boys room or a guest bedroom. Pair it with some leather furniture (because what's more masculine than wood and leather?), make it country-cozy or even dress it up with a cuddly chenille throw for some added softness.
West Elm pyramid duvet cover $99.00

And lastly, this fun geometric set from Walmart. Priced just right at only $35.99 could really spring a room into fall. I love the spice color, and even though it's very geometric, paired with the traditional furniture and accessories, it really brings the bedding into a traditional home for a more updated look.
(I'm sorry for the horrible picture, there is only one size picture to use, so I had to blow it up for you too see.)
Walmart Divatex Diamond Spice $35.99

So what do you think? Any you are just dying to have (my favorite is the Pottery Barn stripe, it's just so dang versitile!) Have you found any I should include? What are your thoughts on making the rooms in your house reflect the seasons?

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Long-Awaited Wallpaper Removal Post

I've been teasing you for over a year now (according to this post) about how to remove wallpaper. Since we had SOO much wallpaper in this house to remove when we bought it I knew I was going to have to find the best way to do it.. fast.

When we first stared the bathroom makeover, I went ahead and took down one wall of wallpaper. I chose to only do one wall because I wanted to do this in stages. It makes a huge mess, so I figured by doing it a little at the time, would save my sanity.. and give me plenty of time to get this post pictured and absolutely perfect for y'all. Speed forward a day and several hours worth of errands and hubby has come along and done all the other walls for me.
Yay! ... oh wait. Dang it! I needed to wait to do it for the blog. He didn't take any pictures. Crap. Oh well. Maybe the wallpaper post will have to wait (yet again) until we redo the master bath (curses!).

That's when Hubby says, "there's still some behind the toilet that needs to come down."
Wonderful. A postage stamp worth of wallpaper to remove.  
I think. Ok. I can make this work.
Honey, Grab the camera. We're doing the wallpaper removal post if it kills me!

So, finally, here's what we're working with:

Not so pretty. But, easy to do. Messy. But easy.

Step #1:
Find a corner (or area where you can get a grab a piece of the wallpaper) and pull.
This will pull off the 1st (outer) layer of your wallpaper. No need for chemicals or sprays yet. We'll get to that part. Pull it all off your walls. Everything. It will leave behind the lower layer of wallpaper. That's the messy part to remove.
After you've removed the top layer, grab a spray bottle. You're going to fill it 1/2 the way with fabric softener and the other 1/2 with water. Don't use harsh chemicals for this job. Fabric softener works like a charm and makes the room smell good too :)
We used this kind:

(sorry for the horrible picture of my bottle. we got carried away and started spraying before I realized I needed to take pictures of it (again, curses!)).
Spray, Spray, Spray. Soak it. Get it really wet. See? (Work in small portions. If the fabric softener dries on the backing it will make the glue harder to remove once it's re-wetted) Trust me. I know from experience.
Wait about 30 secs.
Using a paint scraper, scrape, scrape, scrape.

Comes right off.

Alright. We're getting somewhere.

Not bad right? It is messy. It does take some patience with pieces that are super glued down, but totally worth it. It's not hard. I promise.

Some extra tips:
  • If you still have areas of glue stuck on the walls once the wallpaper is off, you can get it off with a sponge and dishsoap. We had a few spots that required some scrubbing afterwards.
  • We found that using a metal paint scraper worked much better than a plastic one.
  • Take your time. Do one wall if that's all the time you have. It's better to do one wall and get it all done rather than do it all and it not be perfect.
  • Have trash bags ready. The paper really adds up quickly.
This really isn't a tip, but more a funny story:
When we were removing the wallpaper in our kitchen, we just piled all the paper in the center of the room to put in the trash later. It is a large room, and it just made more sense to us at the time. We started noticing this foul smell coming from the paper pile after a while. John went to investigate said smell and apparently while we were busy, Pickles (our cat) decided to use it as her litter box. She saw this large pile of paper on the floor and decided to claim it as her own. Never have we since piled the paper in the middle of the room. We are also very careful now at Christmas with wrapping paper to be sure we don't repeat history.

If you have any questions about removing your own wallpaper, feel free to contact us. Have you removed any wallpaper? Do you have any fun stories? We'd love to hear!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What I learned This Week

1. No, I haven't died. At one point this week I wanted to.

2. Toilets should never be installed without proper supervision. I believe through trial and error, we installed, removed and re-installed our toilet 5 times before it was all said and done. The last attempt with a professional's help.

3. No matter how old I get, letters from old friends and pretty stationary in the mail are always fun.

4. I am older than my husband. When it's his birthday, it always makes me feel old. I keep hoping my birthday will cease and he can jump me by a few years. It can be done on board games.. why not in real life?

5. It is always hard to say good-bye to friends. Especially ones who follow their dreams. Even if I'm a little jealous of where their dreams take them.

6. I was reminded of how much I love (and miss) England and western Europe.

7. Cupcakes make up for everything.

8. It's not a good idea to wait until the day of your husbands birthday to buy his gifts. Even though he loved them. It was waaay stressful.

9. When water comes leaking through your living room from the upstairs bath, it's time to call a plumber. Even if it is 10pm on Saturday night. With company in town.

10. Never underestimate the power of the DVR.

11. Even when you don't feel like it, throwing the frisbee for the dog at 11pm on a weeknight still makes you feel good to see how happy they are when you play with them.

12. Don't trust a grumpy plumber with a toilet bowl full of water. It results in a gallon on your new floor.

13. Grumpy plumbers who accept your call have no right to be rude. But they still are. Even when they take all your money.

14. Concealer is a girls best friend.

15. I love our new bathroom.

16. Babies are amazing and can handle more than you think.

17. Never underestimate the perfect pregnancy, the delivery can be just the opposite.

18. Fall is beginning to appear, and makes me yearn for it's cool, crisp mornings and apple cider.

19. I love and miss living in the NC Mountains.

20. Family is everything.
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