Playing Along with the ORC

Hey everybody!

So I decided instead of doing the spring 2017 One Room Challenge™ for the next six weeks, I would just play along quietly, on the side, to the best of my abilities. Here are my reasons:

  1. It’s the end of the semester and we both work in higher ed, which means Peter and I have about zero time to devote to stuff. In fact, he’s going to be busy much of the weekend for the next three weekends doing stuff at his school, which leaves me in charge of the Little Person, who is kind of a bad painting buddy. I’m going to try to get as much done over the next few weeks as possible, but ultimately, I questioned my ability to pull off any major house change in April/early May, and didn’t want to be the blogger making excuses and showing a half-finished project.
  2. I have a weird privacy thing about this blog. On the one hand, it’s almost zero fun to write a blog if nobody is reading. On the other, I’m not sure I want the thousands of readers a spot in the ORC could potentially bring (more likely hundreds, but who knows). I chickened out, but did start making sure privacy is a part of my thought process– like changing some things on my blog-linked Instagram account.
  3. I had surgery on my ear (long story) last month, and I just didn’t feel like everything I’d want to do to transform our bedroom was in the budget in the next six weeks. Not that it would have been that expensive, but if I start sharing the blog more widely, I want it to be a project I’m proud of, and when I’m balking at the price of fabric for curtains…probably not time to pull off a major change anywhere.

All of that said, I do have plans for the room, and I do want to accomplish them, so I’m thinking I’ll play along a bit and start working on our bedroom now. The ORC is a biennial event, so maybe I’ll do it in October (though I don’t know that there are any rooms in the house that I feel need a major overhaul after the bedroom. Maybe Pete’s workspace/the laundry room? Not sure how he’d feel about me poking around in there, but at the very least, it needs paint and custom (made by me) curtains for its weirdly-sized, old windows.

Anyway, most of the guest bloggers joining the ORC (so not the designers, but the amateurs with a small/medium-sized blog who are having fun and playing along) last week shared their rooms in their “before” state.

Here’s ours:


This is our master bedroom, complete with closets built by us last winter, the Boy’s bed, and actually, a different rug from the one showed above. Here’s a better view of the closets:


This room gets great light, has pretty wood floors, nice new closets, and a KILLER milk painted or glazed TURQUOISE BLUE CEILING. It’s seriously the thing that convinced me to buy the house. I mean, it’s gorgeous. I’ll post about it on its own soon.

Things I plan to change:

I get stuck in a blue rut in the room because of the ceiling and the white walls, but that’s going to change. I’ve chosen a new color for the closets and shelves, and I plan to do that painting soon. Also, I need to paint the insides of the closets, a project that just never completely got finished. The new color, by Valspar:



I haven’t bought new sheets in years, and I’m very picky on print and material. I finally found some I really love and after an ordering snafu, they’re on the way. I actually picked a print instead of just plain white, so I’m looking forward to some fun bedding. New territory for me!

I have to figure out the artwork situation. We don’t have any on the walls, and just a pretty Motawi tile and a wedding photo on the shelves. Can you tell I love birds? It’s my grandfather speaking through me, I think.


I’ll probably stick with the bird theme in here, since I must of what I decorate with has a “naturalist” slant to it. I’m wanting to add some more exciting colors, so I may go bold.

I have to change the curtain situation. The ones in here are too short and also just single panels (bought when we had no money for curtains and just needed to cover the windows at night). I have dream curtains, but I doubt they’re anywhere close to the budget, even if they went on sale, so I’ll either make them or buy some inexpensive white ones.

I’m making some new spring pillows. I’ve picked a couple different materials, and they’re different from what I’d usually pick.


And finally, the room seems cold because of all the white and blue. Peter has built me an AWESOME linen oak chest, and it’ll go at the foot of the bed and warm up the room (I hope). I can’t wait to show it off after he finishes the inside of it. It’s his most detailed build to date and he used ZERO power tools on the whole thing- just hand tools, and mostly restored, antique ones at that. The man is both creative and dedicated to learning; not much cooler than that in a spouse.

Okay. So that’s my plan. Thanks for listening! I’ll post as I go, but I also have a couple more garden-related posts planned. If they’re useful to you guys, let me know! I feel like I’ve started to grow some kind of green thumb (maybe that’s the other grandparent, my sweet Grandma Noel, visiting me) and I love sharing about that. Oh, and the ducks are like, ADULTS now, so I’ll share about that soon, too!

Happy Easter, everybody! See you soon!


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How to Buy Discount Plants

Or, as I call them, the “poor, broken babies.”

I visit plant nurseries religiously throughout the summer; I love picking new flowers for my (full to bursting) garden. That said, my budget doesn’t always allow for buying everything I want to take home.

One way I’ve figured out to fill up my garden with pretty flowers is to buy from the discounted racks where they place plants that have either been nipped by frost, finished blooming and therefore look unsellable, or have some other issues (like a fungus or something). In honor of my sweet Grandma Noel, who passed away two years ago this month, I’m telling you my tips for buying the broken “bebes” as she called them.

I should note: I ain’t no horticulturalist. I’m telling you what’s worked for me. I took a garden from this…


…to this, with the promise of an even better year this year…


…but it took 5 years, some hard lessons, and a lot of patience (and no small amount of $, even if I did hunt for discounts and take plants from friends and family). So take my recommendations with a grain of salt and contact your local Extension (link here for East Tennessee) office if you need more help!

The first thing you need to know about buying discounted plants is this: big box stores  typically stock things when they are blooming and can be planted. This means that throughout the season, you’ll find things that are appropriate for you to plant at that time of the year and which probably grow well in your region. That said, some knowledge about what grows well in your region and when to plant is super necessary.

For example, I don’t buy bulbs in spring; bulbs bloom in spring and require the aftermath of a bloom to store up energy for the next spring. This is why you should never trim back your daffodil leaves as soon as the blooms are gone. They need to get some sun to store up energy for the next year. So, if you want blooms in the year in which you buy them, buy and plant bulbs in the fall for a springtime bloom.

Additionally, knowing that something does poorly in your area is also good. I’ve tried to grow lavender in East Tennessee, but without careful monitoring and lots of pruning to keep airflow going, they get rotty and die. (It’s also possible that they die in my garden because I have to water stuff around them and they prefer not to have “wet feet”.) I don’t buy them even if they’re discounted. So, go into your discount buying trip knowing what works and what doesn’t.

Armed with that knowledge? Here are my

Tips for Buying
Discounted Plants

1.Plant retailers like to sell things when they’re blooming, and will pull inventory when it has spent its blooms. If you know that something is a rebloomer, or you see lots of buds, it might be a good buy. If, however, you aren’t sure or think it might be a one-time bloomer, lay off. This weekend, I bought some discounted snapdragons. They had finished one round of blooming, but they bloom continuously throughout spring and summer if properly tended, so I went ahead. The discount? They went from $9.98 to $3.00 for 9 plants.

Now, like many annuals, snapdragons bloom from the bottom up, so some deadheading should make them branch out and flower again! I like to plant them in groups to get that bushy look sooner rather than later, and because I’ve learned through 5 years of planting that stuff spaced out by itself just doesn’t look as good as a mass planting does.

2. Know your perennials and annuals. Most of the time, the tag on the plant will tell you whether a plant is a single season plant (annuals) or will come back every year (perennial). It’s important to know this because it dictates what you look for. On an annual, follow the rules above: make sure the plant can be trimmed back and isn’t done blooming for the year. Which brings me to…

3. With a perennial, especially on one with spent blooms, look for healthy growth at the bottom of the plant. 

For example: I love the flowering perennial candytuft. It’s an early, one-time bloomer, and after it blooms, it mounds up into a nice, dark, evergreen groundcover that spills over rocks. Knowing this, I bought one for $3.00 instead of $6.95 this weekend.


Because this guy is a perennial, I looked for healthy, dark green growth at the bottom of the plant and didn’t worry about the fact that its blooms are spent for this year. This little guy will have all spring, summer, and early fall to put down deep, healthy roots and start spreading. In a couple of years, he’ll look like this.


Worth the $3.00 and the wait!

4. Know your biennials. Biennial plants bridge the gap between annuals and perennials; they take their first year to put down healthy roots and foliage, lay dormant over the winter, and then bloom in their second year. Typically, they die after that blooming season. Foxglove is one of these. If you see a blooming floxglove plant, it may not make it to your second season. If you want it as an annual, just to enjoy its blooms, then great. If you want it year after year, you’ll be disappointed.


This groundcover rose was $1 a couple of years ago and in PITIFUL shape…


…and this is last year.

Now, sometimes biennials reseed, so they can mimic a perennial if you plant it in a spot where you want to see it again. If you want this to happen, though, you’ll have to let the plant dry up and drop its seeds; this is not the course for a gardener who likes everything deadheaded all the time. So word of warning: biennials can be tricky buggers and feel like a great deal, but most of the time, they’re more of an annual situation. And with transplant shock, most don’t necessarily look that great after a transplant and may stop blooming. And, if you’re buying the discounted ones, the risk is even greater. With biennials, better to buy babies with no flowers for full price, or better yet, start your own.


5. This final tip is important: stop buying perennials in late summer. Perennials need time to set down roots and save up energy for the winter, plus those deep roots get them through the dry period at the end of the season.  If you plant them late, they’ll be just as susceptible to frost and drought as annuals. There is absolutely no point in buying late, end-of-season plants (unless you live in the deep South, in which case, most of these rules are flexible and lots of annuals act like perennials anyway). I stop buying in late July and instead, go internet shopping for bulbs!

So there they are, my tips for filling up your garden with discounted plants. Now, here’s the kicker: just like poor, broken people, poor broken plants need care and patience. Plant your broken babies with special care not to disturb their fragile root systems, water them in, and after a few days of care and watering, you can start tending them. Prune back dead stuff and give them room to spread, and they’ll pay you back with pretty blooms and serious bang for your buck!

And a final word of warning: spent blooms and frost bite are fine. FUNGUS, MOLD, OR ANY OTHER PLANT DISEASE IS NOT FINE and will ruin other plants in your garden if introduced. Make sure you know what happened to the plant. If you need to ask a sales associate, then so be it. Look up the name of the plant online, on your phone, in the store to see if there are photos online of possible diseases for that variety. Don’t bring it home and put it in your pretty space until you’re sure it just needs some amateur care, not a full-on plant doctor.

Okay guys! Happy discount hunting! And if you have friends who are starting gardens or are gardening on a budget, feel free to share this post or pin it on Pinterest using the image below!

Tips Pinterest Image

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Building the Duck House

I think our ducks are going through their awkward teenager times right now.

IMG_2273 (1)

They’re starting to lose their down and I even see a few pinfeathers coming in. (Sorry for the picture of duck poop, but you know, that’s part of this whole experience.) We took them out in the grass on Saturday, but it was a bit too cold here yesterday, so they stayed inside all day. Despite The Boy’s pleas, I’ve nixed playing with them inside; they’ve just gotten too stinky and ready to poop on the floor. When it’s warm out, though, they can head out for a very supervised run around the side yard.

I’m really ready for them to be out of the house, but it won’t be warm enough at night, even with a heat lamp, for at least another week. At that point, they’ll move into the shed for another couple of weeks while we (by we, I mean Peter) finish up the duck house.


The plan is for the duck house to mount on the side of the existing shed. It will include a nesting box, a ramp for them to get in/out of the box, a buried water trough with a spigot for cleaning and saving duck water for the garden, and a duck run that goes down under the nesting box and along the rock wall.

The Boy and his daddy dug the holes for the posts one evening this week. This child LOVES his shovel and digging holes. He’s obsessed with the duck house, or as he likes to say, “The Big, Giant, Little Duck House!”


Pete’s been finalizing the layout (with help from The Boy– all the help he can take, I imagine).

IMG_2270 (1)

The nesting box is framed and actually has a floor and maybe walls on two sides, and a couple of cattle panels are up. Those will get chicken wire on the inside, and the whole thing will get a lid for protecting the ducks from anything that can climb the fence or drop out of the sky. Eventually, I’ll paint all of it so it doesn’t look like an eyesore.

I’ve done a little research on landscaping around poultry houses, and I think I can make it both pretty and practical. The key is picking things that ducks can eat without getting sick, which also provide them some predator and sun protection. I plan to plant some black eyed Susan vines to climb up the trellis and give them some shade, some nasturtiums to do similarly, and maybe some sunflowers, as well. It’ll depend on my space and whether the north side of the pen gets enough sun.

I’m so ready to plant and dig it’s not even funny; I’ve been hoarding bulbs that go on sale at Aldi.


Generally, it’s not my style to buy the cheap bulbs at the grocery store, but they were there. I’m really excited about the peonies, which can be super expensive; they may not do well, but at about $1.69 per package, I figured I’d take the gamble and only be out a couple bucks if they fail.

I also put in my perennial order at Romence Gardens, and expect that to arrive on May 2. It’s become an annual tradition that I order a few hard-to-find things from them. This year I forced myself to only order things I’ve ordered before so I can get some repetition going in the garden and carry certain colors through the whole thing.  I can’t wait to document how all of this looks this summer!




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We Have Ducks!

Everybody welcome the Huffaker House’s newest residents:



Peter was gone much of last week, and on about Thursday, he texted me saying he wanted chickens. I’ve always been on that train, but I have no idea how to take care of them. He has lots of experience with livestock, and has raised lots of chickens, so I told him that as long as he told me what to do, I was in.

Well, when he got back on Saturday, we went to the feed store to buy our chickens and had a bit of a change of heart– the minimum purchase was 6 (we were thinking more like 4, given our space) and it was an unsexed run. With our luck, we knew we’d end up with 4 roosters crowing at all hours and driving us mad. Plus, there’s a gang of roving neighborhood chickens, and the last thing I wanted was some kind of turf war between the Jets and the Sharks. So we went home empty-winged (well, The Boy got a new red shovel because it was the only way to get him out of the store after we decided not to get chickens at that moment).

…And then we started talking about ducks. Pete’s never raised them, but we did some research, and the process isn’t all that different from chickens. They’re a little more vulnerable to predators, so we’ll have to build a REALLY secure coop, but other than that, we should be able to do it. So we brought them home yesterday, and aside from my house smelling like cedar chips right now, so far so good. They’ll stay inside until April-ish, at which point they’ll move into the coop. Peter’s currently planning one for the side of the existing shed.


It’ll include a duck run along the stone retaining wall, a mounted nesting box with a ramp for getting down, and a little duck pool with a PVC valve in the bottom for draining and cleaning. And lots of chicken wire; Pete’s had chickens get decapitated by raccoons who pulled their heads through the wire in less secure situations (too graphic? I’m leaving it.).

So, that’s the big news. The Boy likes the ducks, but mostly he just likes passing them back and forth. I think he’ll be more invested as he and his daddy build the coop and then move them out there.

And also, this:


That’s right. You’ve heard of reading dogs? Well, we have reading ducks. The Boy “read” 2-3 books to those lucky ducks yesterday. For backstory, The Boy couldn’t say “mama” until a year and a half ago, and he couldn’t say his own name until he was more than 3 years old. If you have kids and any of them have been speech delayed, you know how big of a deal it is for your speech delayed child to pick up a book and start making up a story for his ducks. I think I’m going to encourage him to read to them every day while they’re in the house, and maybe once they’re out of it, too.

Also, no, they don’t have names yet, because we can’t tell them apart yet and Pete wasn’t into painting their toenails so I could figure out which was which. (Wouldn’t have done it, but they’d have looked fab.)

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Spring is ALMOST here!



hello… (crickets)

Hey, tiny group of people who read the stuff I post to the internet…um, sorry. Man, this family gets in a rut in the wintertime (and we don’t even have a real winter– it’s Tennessee for crap’s sake). I think I’ve been waiting for a big moment to write a new post, but instead, I’m just going to sit down and update everyone. I have serious intentions of updating at least bi-weekly now that the weather is warming up.

We haven’t done a whole lot lately, but here I am, about to update on some house stuff. So without too many excuses, here I go.

It’s starting to look like spring in East Tennessee. I have a love-hate relationship with the sudden warming and greening and general “new car” smell happening around here. Like, I LOVE it, but I’m also a little worried it’s a sign of impending doom and eventually we’ll all just live in a summery hellscape. BUT, it does allow me to start doing garden and yard stuff in MARCH, so I guess, in the short term, I’ll bask in the glory and forget the terrifying possibilities.




Sis, enjoying her post as supervisor.

So, two things.

First, the garden is starting to spring to life, and seriously, it’s going to be AMAZING this year. We moved in in 2011 and it was a mess:


But, year by year, I’ve clawed my way out of the bindweed, the lamb’s ear, the fungus-infested irises, the strangling daylillies, and this, THIS is the summer it will look like the garden was designed by a pro (and not a serious novice who’s been figuring it out as she goes). I spent Saturday moving plants to improve the balance of the garden, and this year, I really think it’ll all fill in so beautifully.

I’ve even thought about lines of sight; when you look out our back door, you’ll see a rose bush (blooming most of the summer) surrounded by yarrow and salvia, covered in hummingbird moths and butterflies. So just imagine this:


…like that.


The Boy helping to water in my transplanted rose bush.

Additionally, I’ve been working on a plan for the bedroom. “What?” you ask. “You mean the bedroom where you built the closets? The ones we read about last winter?”

Yeah, that one.



Hear me out. I loved the navy blue. I really did. I think when we built those closets, I wanted a dramatic way to set them off from the white walls. But honestly, I think maybe the drama gives me anxiety. So, I’m working on a plan for dialing down the drama in the bedroom (well, doesn’t that sound weird…leaving it) and lightening it all up. Here are the reasons:

  1. The navy is lovely but it sucks the light out of the room when we’re reading books at night with our son. The color (Volcanic Ash by Valspar) is still my go-to navy, but it’s just dark, and while I loved the concept, and even the execution, LIVING with it is a different story.
  2. I feel stuck in a blue rut in this room. The ceiling is SO beautiful, but SO blue. It’s got every color of blue you could imagine in it, and it makes me feel, in conjunction with the navy, that I can’t do anything else with it. Which is how I ended up with blue winter pillows in the room.


3. The blue really doesn’t mesh with the white/grey/charcoal/light blue thing I have going in the rest of the house, and I’m a big fan of repetition throughout a house. I feel a bit assaulted (boy, dramatic much?) every time I go into the room and it doesn’t match the rest of the house.

4. I would like to make the space a little more spring-ish, and I’m struggling with that.

5. I’m just ready for a change.

So, I have plans, and I’m seriously considering joining the One Room Challenge, which is a biannual event where a bunch of well-known bloggers tackle one space and redesign it over the course of six weeks. Additionally, thousands of people with small-time blogs (ME) participate as amateurs. They update weekly (a challenge for me) about their design, their progress, and finally, a reveal. So, that’s my plan: join the amateur ORC and force myself to really re-evaluate what I want from our bedroom space. Additionally, I’ll be working on a budget of like, not much. 🙂 So, fun challenge, given I have no real design skills.

So, that’s what’s up. The challenge doesn’t start til April, but March will be super busy. For one, I’m having surgery for a difficult-to-diagnose honest-to-god bizarre syndrome I appear to have in my ears (you guys, I can hear my eyeballs move) and my co-workers and I are putting together some seriously cool library stuff for our students. I plan to ruminate during March while planning my garden for the year and doing some old house maintenance (constant in a house that’s 117 years old), and then kick some proverbial ass when it comes to the interior come April.



Thanks for sticking with me and reading, guys. It’s fun to share all my hopes and plans and ideas with you.

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Family Stockings: Done(ish)

I am about to publish this post. It is full of photos taken (poorly) with my iPhone. Let it be known I am not a photographer, I have crappy lighting in my house, I have an unsteady hand with the iPhone, and I’m not a real blogger, just a lady who posts things in case anyone is interested.

Disclaimer over.

I made stockings for everyone except my brother because he isn’t coming down here for Christmas. He’ll get one, too, but my folks will be around a bit sooner than he will be, so theirs were the priority. He doesn’t lack a stocking because he’s less important; he lacks a stocking because his arrival is less imminent. I present our family’s stockings, minus an important person’s, as captured by my iPhone at 8 p.m. last night.

I’m so dang pleased with myself over how they all coordinate. I love the menswear vibe, and the red/black/white/gray color scheme really makes me happy.

Here’s our pretty 2016 mantle.


And I finished another felt ornament for the 12 Days series. It’s the Turtledove. I’ve done an about face on my plans for the ones I’ll keep, though, so this guy will probably get gifted sometime either this Christmas or after I have a full set of gift ones.


I’m 100% sure I won’t post again before Christmas, so hope you all have lovely winter holidays!

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Twelve Days of Christmas Ornaments

As I admitted a couple posts ago, I’m really trying to jump on the Christmas decor train this year. However, I’m also really trying not to end up with a house full of purchased Christmas decorations that a) will be out of style tomorrow and b) have no emotional meaning for me. I am almost finished making our stockings, The Boy and I made some cinnamon and glitter ornaments, and now, I’ve started a long-term project to create lots of handmade felt ornaments for our future Christmas trees.

Trolling around Pinterest a couple of weeks ago, I saw a beautiful “Swam A-Swimming” ornament and instantly fell in love. A little digging and I found the website of the lady who designed it, and then learned that she’s working on an entire series of ornaments that represent the Twelve Days of Christmas. The first is the Partridge and Pear, so I ordered the pattern and some pretty wool felt and got to work!



There’s a lot of intricate embroidery in these things, but they’re fairly easy projects and they look so pretty on the tree! I’m excited to tackle the Turtle Dove, and look forward to the day, months from now (partly because the artist hasn’t finished designing the series), when I have all of them done!

One more look at them together:




I hope everybody is finding ways to make their holidays special, even if you’re not making anything but memories!

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