March Giveaway: Cape Cod Doormat-Made in USA

The answer to my March Giveaway is: Mauna Kea Observatory located on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Winner: Marie from Las Vegas. Marie is retired and has been following my blog from the very beginning (along with so many of you). I chose Marie because she used to live in Hawaii many years ago. She e-mails me occasionally, and last year, she sent me photos of the house in Hawaii where she used to live.

I think Marie will get a lot of use out of the gift which is a Cape Cod Doormat made from colorful and durable rope. Cape Cod Doormats of Distinction is a woman-owned business with a relatively small operation in Hyannis.

Click here to watch a local news story about how the doormats are made. Dawn, the owner, explains how she was “roped in” to the business. The doormats are available in a range of colors and sizes as well as custom doormats. They’re great for boats too! And easy to clean with a garden hose.

Each doormat has a 5-year warranty.

Photo Credit: Cape Cod Doormats of Distinction

And here’s some information about Mauna Kea.

The  13,796 ft (4,200 meter) high summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii houses the world’s largest observatory for optical, infrared, and submillimeter astronomy.

And, yes, it does snow on Hawaii’s Big Island. In December 2016, the road to Mauna Kea at the visitor station (9,200 feet) was shut down. Snow-capped peaks were visible from lower elevations.

A total of 11 different countries support the observatories. NASA Infrared Telescope is run by NASA (U.S. Government). Can you go inside? NO

If You Go: Stop at the visitor center first and get the current weather update and safety information. Visitors have to adjust to the change in altitude. Mauna Kea is one of the only places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in about 2 hours. For some people, there is a strong possibility of altitude sickness.

Stargazing takes place at the visitor center each night from 6pm to 10pm. Visitors can actually see more stars at the Visitor Center than the summit; the lack of oxygen at the summit makes your vision less acute.

Stay tuned for my April geography-based gift giveaway question–open to all subscribed blog followers.

Thank you to all of you who sent countless emails in response to the blog giveaway. I enjoyed reading all your personal renovation stories (and other stories). I’m sorry I can’t respond to each one of you but do know that I read each and every email.



Super Easy to Grow: Premium Zinnia Seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

It’s time to start planting seeds indoors!

Recently, I received 8 packets of zinnia seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, ME.

Photo Credit: Johnny’s Selected Seeds–Benarys Giant Mix

Since my house faces south I would really like to plant the 400 zinnia seeds in rows in the front yard.

As some of you know, I grew zinnias last summer. They’re among my favorite easy-care and easy-to-grow flowers in a cutting garden; they have long bloom times (from early summer thru fall) and a long vase life.

When you cut, they return all summer long!

Photo Credit: Johnny’s Selected Seeds–Giant Purple Zinnia

I asked Peggy, a product technician, at Johnny’s Selected Seeds for a few tips on growing zinnias.

Sue: When should I start seeds to get early blooms?

Peggy: To get the earliest blooms it would be best to start them indoors about 28 days before the last frost date. Zinnias like high temperatures to germinate so placing on a heat mat at 80-85F will germinate in a few days. Lower temperatures will slow the germination down and could take up to a week. If starting in a greenhouse you should have adequate natural lighting so they should not get leggy. If not, supplement lighting of 12 hours per day should be used.

Photo Credit: Johnny’s Selected Seeds–Golden Yellow Giant Dahlia Zinnia

Sue:What will happen if I start seeds indoors too early?

Peggy: Zinnias are fast growing so do not plant them too early or they will get root bound causing stress on the plants. Stressed plants will produce flowering on short plants and in some cases cause double flowering zinnias to revert to singles.

Photo Credit: Johnny’s Selected Seeds–White Giant Dahlia Zinnia

Sue: For people who can’t start seeds indoors, when is the best time to plant seeds in the ground?

Peggy: Zinnias will also grow well from direct seeding but you would need to wait for the soil temperature to warm to 75-80F and this could delay having the earliest blooms.

Photo Credit: Johnny’s Selected Seeds–“New” Queen Lime with Blush 

NEXT: Who won the “Guess Where” Giveaway posted on March 7, 2017


Before & After: Treads & Risers

The staircase project is finally finished–well, 98 percent finished.

Below is the original 1954 staircase that accessed the cramped attic storage area. The height of the attic ceiling was less than 5 feet high. (Read about it here when I wrote about it last month.)

When we designed the 2-story addition, the architect, Ron Arrighy, said that we could utilize the same staircase to access to the new master bedroom addition.

It was awkward walking up these steps due the pitch. I never saw the hoard that was in the attic space. After John hauled everything out, I walked up the steps and saw the attic empty. I had to crouch over in order to take a look.

Afterwards, John tore the roof off the house for framing the addition. Click here to read.

Remember this? It was scary to have a house without a roof. I was thinking, “Uh oh” what have I gotten myself into! But there was no turning back.

So you can see in this photo where this original staircase ended. It’s to the right where there’s a square opening above the long header. That opening was the opening to the attic area.

And now, in the below photo, the opening leads to the master bedroom which goes 18 feet beyond the back of the original house.

After John cut out the old stair case, he installed three new stringers. It wasn’t easy to measure and cut the stringers. If you ever think you might do a DIY project and haven’t done stringers before, just hire a carpenter. It’s not worth the time and aggravation to do it yourself.

After installing the stringers, John had to finish hanging the Sheetrock to the ceiling in the upstairs hallway. He also had to spackle, sand and prime. This time, the spackling wasn’t any fun. The joint compound had debris, it must have been a bad batch and it was getting on the walls. If this ever happens, take it back and exchange it for a fresh bucket. Sometimes you just get a bad batch. The previous 30 buckets used for the entire house were perfectly fine.

At Home Depot, John purchased pine treads (steps) and cut them to the correct width. We chose pine because my plan is to paint and stencil each riser.

I wrote about stenciling stairs last year. Read about it here. 

If this was the main staircase visible in the living room, we would have chosen oak and stained it. Since this staircase leads to the bedroom, it’s location is upstairs and in a private area so we chose pine, and since they’ll be painted anyway, pine is perfectly fine to use.

For the risers (the vertical pieces of wood above each step/tread), John bought 1×8 SELECT pine which doesn’t have knots–it’s great to stain or paint. Each SELECT 10′ 1×8 board cost $20.

Regular pine is less money but has knots. The knots lend a country/rustic look which is not what we wanted. Additionally, knots are darker when stained. If you don’t want knotty pine, buy knot-free SELECT.

John took this photo standing in the new addition looking down the stairwell. He’s standing in that framed out square in the above roof-less photo.

Downstairs and to the right is the hall bathroom and to the left is the hallway leading to the three other bedrooms.

The last step in finishing this project will be installing the 1×8 material on the left and right where you see gaps between the stairs and wall. And finally, painting the walls with color!


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

How appropriate that I’m in O’Hare Airport this morning!


May the luck of the Irish be with you…

Butch O’Hare & the F4F-3 Wildcat…