The Brellis House


Cornhole #3

The Brellis House Custom Cornhole Set

We made our first cornhole set for our wedding reception. It wasn’t too difficult by following directions from Cornhole How To. It does take some time and the lumber is surprising expensive (about $50-70). Even still, for Dan’s older sister’s wedding, we decided to collaborate with his younger sister and her boyfriend to make them a cornhole set as a wedding present. Lessons learned: an outdoor duck cloth fabric is crucial for the bags! We thought we’d get fancy with a cool canvas pattern, but unfortunately, the bags ripped after a few games… (cornhole is an intense sport).

Even still, one of her bridesmaids liked the idea so much that she asked us to make a set for a party celebrating her wedding. We saw this as a perfect excuse to buy a table saw- which we found at a yard sale. The table saw made it a lot easier and we used sturdy fabric and simple color patterns. She was happy with them.

The Brellis House Custom Cornhole Set Blue


Canning Tomatoes

canned tomatoesIt’s been a good year for tomatoes in our garden. We started this summer with a goal to can as many tomatoes as we could, and we’ve done pretty well. We’ve picked a dozen or so large tomatoes per week and made a few cans of salsa and sauce. We found this great asparagus pot at goodwill- and it works PERFECTLY for canning a single jar without wasting a ton of water to fill a large pot.



Since canning a few here and there from our garden just doesn’t add up we decided to find some to buy at a good price. Dan found a great deal at a local farmer’s market and we bought 25 pounds of Roma tomatoes and canned them whole. It took a while but we ended up with 12 jars of whole tomatoes. I think with a few more from our garden and my mom’s garden we might just last the winter without having to buy tomatoes! Much better than our canning efforts in 2011.

summer tomatoes

canned tomatoes

Happy Third Anniversary To Us!

It’s that time of year again…our awkward yearly anniversary photo. This year we were too busy to even remember our anniversary and we didn’t get around to taking our photo until 11 days later.  Oh well, we’ll make it up next year!

The options for Year 3 materials were leather or glass. I think you can probably guess why we picked glass…

third anniversary

We didn’t quite have the focus right on this one, but it’s goofy so I wanted to share it anyway…

third yearIn case this isn’t enough silliness for you, you can check out our Year 1 and Year 2 photos!


Experiments with Natural Dyes: Black Walnuts

black walnut dyeI got the idea about a year ago to make a quilt with all naturally dyed fabrics. Even though I haven’t finished my second quilt, I got started with the dyeing process this past weekend. Most of the plant material I plan on using is “ready” this time of year. My first experiment was using black walnuts. This isn’t meant to be a full tutorial, there are lots of good sources online and books. I’m simply documenting and presenting what worked (and didn’t work) for me.

Before dying, I scoured the fabric by simmering with some washing soda. This removes any waxes or junk on the fabric that would keep it from dyeing evenly.

scouring fabric

At first I didn’t mordant the fabric. I gathered about 10 black walnuts from the ground below a tree, they were mostly green, some browning slightly. Then, following directions from two books I got from the library (Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess and The Handbook of natural Plant Dyes by Sasha Duerr), I cracked the hulls and separated the nuts (which I left in our backyard and hopefully someone will eat them).

breaking walnut huskswalnut husks

Then I put the hulls in a 5 gallon bucket and added water and let fester in my basement for 2-3 weeks.  The water quickly became dark dark brown and stinky. Once it seemed ripe, I strained the liquid into a pot and brought the liquid to a boil, then simmered with the fabric for about 30 minutes. I had two pieces of fabric in the pot, so I decided to see what difference time made. I took the first piece out after 30 minutes of simmering, the second piece I let steep overnight. Then I rinsed and rinsed the fabric until the water ran clear(ish), let dry, and here’s how they looked:

walnut fabrics

While the colors were lovely (they both kinda appear white in this picture, they were actually much darker), I was expecting a much darker brown rather than a light gray. I had done lots of research and a lot of people said a mordant was unnecessary with black walnuts, but I also read that some people used one so I decided to experiment. I kept the darker of the original fabrics (the one that sat in dyebath overnight) and mordanted the lighter fabric and redyed it. I created an alum mordant by  simmering 20% alum per fiber weight, then let fabric steep for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Additionally, I decided to try boiling the black walnut water with the black walnuts for an hour to try and extract more of the dye from the husks. After boiling for an hour, I added the fabric and soaked for about an hour on medium heat. Then I let it steep overnight and rinsed the next morning.

black walnut dye

What a difference those extra steps made! It’s now a much deeper brown, almost olivey.  So I have my first 2 colors- I need about 10 more to create the quilt I have in mind! This may take a few years. 🙂

Framing a Mirror with Fence Boards

wooden-mirror-frameFor years I’ve been collecting inspiration and watching out for the perfect wood to frame our gigantic floor mirror that I inherited from my grandmother. Here’s a picture from our upstairs renovations of the unframed mirror:unframed mirror

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted after collecting photos on pinterest.  I always wanted to use fence boards from my parent’s old farm, but that never worked out so when I saw this on craigslist I immediately jumped.

I filled the back of my tiny car with (dirty, buggy) fence boards and headed home to start cutting. The mitered edges were tricky (warped, uneven wood doesn’t lend itself to nice, snug 45 degree angles) and we ended up getting my parents and their assortment of table saws involved. After many hours we finally got the edges to line up, screwed in some brackets and mirror clips to hold it on the frame, and finally we have an awesome floor mirror that didn’t cost any more than a few dollars for the hardware!

framing a mirror

wooden-mirror-frame-bottom-corner wooden-mirror-frame-straight-on

Unfortunately, we didn’t really consider our slopey cape cod ceilings when we were measuring out the frame and now the mirror is kinda squished in the space but we’re very happy with it and maybe it’ll fit better in our next house. :)wooden-mirror-frame-top-corner

Wine Review: Chateau Lafayette Reneau Chardonnay

We went to the Finger Lakes of New York last year and brought home a ton of wine. I believe this bottle was one of the last left and we had been saving it because it was our favorite from the trip. It’s Chateau Lafayette Reneau’s 2010 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. We were in love with the Chardonnays of the Finger Lakes but this was our favorite of the wines we tasted, it had all of our favorite oakyness and creamyness of a Chardonnay. Strong vanilla and sweet brown sugar on the nose, with a hint of citrus. The taste had lots of buttery and vanilla oak flavors with some light smokiness and tropical fruit. We’re considering getting a case of it shipped.  You can too here.Chateau Lafayette Reneau Chardonnay

Staining a Deck in July

Staining a deck in July was probably not the greatest idea we’ve had. Although the look of the weathered wood appealed to me, it was getting to be quite dangerous, after rain it would be so slick that you could easily break your neck walking on it, plus one of the boards was almost totally rotted through (and had some beautiful moss growing on it).  Here are some pictures of it before:

deck before

rotted mossy deck board

deck before

The power washing part wasn’t too bad on a hot day.

pressure washing deck

pressure washed deck

replacing deck board

pressure washed deck

But the drying part took weeks since we’ve been getting afternoon thunderstorms just about every day. Finally after 3 straight 100 degree days it dried out and we waited for the temperatures to get below 90 to stain. It took weeks to find days in between rain to finally get it all stained. We were staining with headlamps until 10PM one night. staining deckWe really should have waited for a less rainy, more predictable weathered month, but oh well here it is! We really had no idea that deck stain was more like paint than wood stain, so the gray is going to take some getting used to. If we were going to do it again we might go with a transparent weather-proofer rather than a colored stain.Here’s how it turned out, plus some photos we snapped after putting up some string lights and eating a delicious pizza dinner outside.

decknighttime deck pizza dinner

Next, we’ve got to clean and stain our new deck furniture.


My grandfather was a big collector of clocks towards the end of his life. I inherited a few clocks, and also a few pocket watches. They’ve been sitting around in a box for years and I’ve been wanting to put them in shadowboxes and up on the wall. Finally we did it! Here are some of the watches.


I had two frames from Ikea and another shadowbox from my grandmother that we were able to fit five of the seven watches in. After googling around for a minute about how to secure heavy items in a shadowbox with no real luck (most involve tape or sewing the item to the backing or pinning, none of which were an option since these watches are so heavy and we didn’t have real shadowbox backings that we could pin into) I got the idea to use fishing wire and try to dangle them from the top of the frame. It worked perfectly. Then I found a third shadowbox at a secondhand store that I was able to paint black and put the last two watches in. I ran out of fishing wire and ended up using thread which actually looks a lot nicer. Now if only we had done this years ago- it was so easy! Oh, and I was singing Fiona Apple’s Shadowboxer the entire time which was pretty annoying.

pocketwatch shadowboxgazelle head and artwork  horse head and artwork living room artwork

Celebrating birthday with MULCH!

Every year I get a load of mulch for my birthday- this year I got 4 cubic yards of mulched delivered. The morning it was delivered was like Christmas morning. I LOVE mulching. 4 cubic yards mulch

I really hadn’t prepped the beds enough so it took me a few days to get through the whole pile- but it was gone in less than a week! Didn’t even kill the grass under the pile!

Here’s some before and after pictures- mulch makes such a big difference!

front yard gardenbackyard weeds fern garden backyard weeds backyard garden man garden

mulch backyard front yard garden fern garden mulch backyard garden beds mulch backyard mulch garden beds

Still SO much to do- I’ve got room for more plants now, I want to get a delivery of wood chips for the path and sitting area.

Kitchen photos

The Our House section of our blog has had only before pictures- so in an attempt to update with some current photos I took some quick photos of our kitchen this morning.  It was a good excuse to give it a good ol’ clean.


kitchen open shelves kitchenkitchen kitchenopen shelves kitchen

We’d call it 95% done. There are still some minor things I’d like to get done:

-make a window curtain
-paint/replace kickboards under cabinets
-make a pull-out trash/recycling compartment
-make a small shelf to the right of the fridge for cereal and bags
– finish up some trim around the island and cabinets