...because home doesn't happen overnight.

fiddle leaf fig 1

It’s been over two months since Mr. Fig came into my life. From the get-go I made a promise to myself to share whatever became of him – good or bad. I’ve read a bunch of stories of homeowners bringing home fiddle leaf figs but can’t find as much in the way of follow-ups. What’s going well? What went wrong? Rather than reading a list of care tips from a gardening website, I think it’s more helpful to see how real people care (properly or improperly) for their fiddle leaf figs.

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So when new growth appeared at the top of my fig several weeks ago, I thought it might help to share how I’ve been caring for it. I am no expert. It used to be that everything green I touched turned brown but lately I’ve been able to keep all of my houseplants alive. What’s going on?! Many of things I’m doing aren’t secrets. In fact, many of the tips I’m utilizing were kindly offered up in the comments section of this post. Thank you!! (Mr. Fig thanks you as well.)

First up is location. Fiddle leaf figs love bright indirect light. My tree sits just inside a set of french doors and below two skylights on the north side of my house. This area is always bright but the sun’s rays never hit the plant directly.

The planter sits on a stand with casters so I can roll it out of the way to open the doors. The doors lead to a grilling patio which has seen absolutely zero action over the last six months. Now that the weather is getting warmer, we’ll probably be scooting the tree out of the way more often. I’ve thought about relocating it to the living room but it seems to really like this spot and I’m nervous about switching things up. More than likely, I’ll roll the tree outside when the weather is nice. While the tree is small, this setup will work but when / if this guy grows much, much larger I may have to rethink the location. I don’t rotate the tree regularly but it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.

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The other big thing about fiddle leaf figs is watering without over- or under-watering. When I first brought the tree home, I was giving it a splash of water every 3-5 days but then someone mentioned that I should be flooding it then letting it dry out in between waterings. So that’s what I’m doing now. I pay attention to how the leaves are oriented and when things start looking droopy I wait another day or so to water. I also implement the lift test. When the leaves are droopy I lift the plastic planter out of the ceramic one. If the tree feels relatively light, then it’s time to water. That equates to watering every 7-14 days. From what I’ve heard, it’s better to under-water than over-water so when in doubt I err on the side of waiting it out a little longer in between waterings.

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To water, I carry the tree over to the kitchen sink and set it inside. (Reason #99 why I love a single basin sink.) If the dirt seems extra dry, hard or compacted, I use a pencil and stab it into the dirt over and over to break things up and allow the water to reach the roots. I use the pull-down faucet to flood the planter with lukewarm water. I add water until I see it running through the bottom of the planter.

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Then I let the tree sit in the sink while the water drains until it’s no longer dripping. I think it was a reader who told me not to immediately place the tree back in the ceramic (non-draining) planter. Apparently, letting the tree sit in a pool of water can cause root rot.

I fully realize that if the tree continues to grow (grow, grow little tree!) this method of watering isn’t going to work forever. I guess that’s when I start rolling the tree to the bathroom and giving it a shower? Forget finishing the second bathroom for the kids. It’s going to be the fiddle leaf fig bathroom. Hee-hee.

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About once a month I wipe the leaves with a soft, damp cloth to remove dust and images of photosynthesis diagrams flash in my brain. Oh Calvin cycle, how I love thee.

I recently spray painted the rolling stand gold. (Yay for spray painting weather!) Not sure how this impacts the health of the tree but I’ve heard plants like to be courted. Singing to them, talking to them, displaying them on gold thrones…it can’t hurt.

And that’s how I’m not killing my beloved Mr. Fig. He isn’t the lowest maintenance guy but I don’t mind. I’m so happy he seems to like it here! I plan on fertilizing him this summer. And eventually I’m going to have to repot. I’ll keep you posted. Literally.

Do you have a fiddle leaf fig? How’s it going? Do you want a fiddle leaf fig? I would have bet money on the demise of any fig tree in my house knowing my reputation with houseplants. But trying out a small, inexpensive one has been successful! I hope I can keep it up.

I’ll be back later today with a regular Made Me Smile post. TGIF!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

When I started writing House*Tweaking over four years ago, I did it because I have an innate passion for writing and all things home. As a child, I was always writing a book or poem or song – usually in my bedroom which I had just rearranged or redecorated. (Do you remember the wallpaper border trend of the 90′s? I totally put one in my bedroom and DIYed a wall clock to match. Classy.) H*T was a medium for merging those two passions and the minute I hit publish I was hooked.

In the beginning, my least favorite part of blogging was taking pictures, uploading pictures, editing pictures and posting mediocre pictures. I used a Canon point and shoot camera to take pictures of my projects and home. There was no thought or skill behind the photography. It was merely a means to an end.

Somewhere along the way my attitude towards photography changed. I was exposed to such beautiful imagery online and it inspired me to improve my own photography skills. Having reached a plateau with my point and shoot, I started doing research on DSLR’s. I purchased a Canon EOS XSi body along with a 50mm f/1.8 lens for macro shooting and a Tamron AF 17-50mm f/2.8 zoom lens for general shooting and I’ve been using them ever since.

first and last photo

The image on the left is the very first photo I ever posted on H*T. The photo on the right is the most recent photo I posted. Many things have changed from that first photo to the current one: my equipment, my home, my style (that’s a whole other post) and my knowledge of and experience with photography.

When we moved into our current home, I was having a difficult time capturing the interior the way I saw it in real life. The open kitchen-living area receives a ton of natural light but whenever I tried taking a photo of the space it always turned out dark and cloudy. Last year I enrolled in Nicole’s Photo 101 e-course. It was a 4-week course and cost $125. It was the best investment I’ve ever made in my photography. Since then, I shoot in manual mode 95% of the time and I’m completely comfortable doing so. Several readers have asked if I bought a new camera because they noticed a difference in my blog photos. No, I didn’t buy a new camera. I finally know how to use the one I bought years ago.

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This is my normal setup for shooting in my home. (Sorry for the poor photo quality. I had to shoot this with my phone since my camera is in the picture. How ironic is it to include bad photos in a photography post?) It’s the camera I mentioned already along with a high quality tripod, a gift from Steve. I had a cheaper tripod originally but within a year the panhead cracked and it was incredibly flimsy which pretty much voided any reason to use it.

Setting up the tripod always seems like a huge extra effort but, in reality, it only takes a few minutes and allows me to maximize the quality of my photos.

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Here’s my dirty little secret…I don’t own or know how to use Photoshop. I know. When I started blogging, I couldn’t justify the expense especially because no amount of editing was going to make my poor photos look great. Over time, I found inexpensive, well, mostly free ways to edit my photos. I used Picnik for a while before it was phased out and then I switched to PicMonkey which is what I use now. I pay a small annual fee for the Royale version. (I use Polyvore to create mood boards and round ups.)

Sometimes I wish I could use Photoshop to mock up DIY / design projects and create better round ups but the cost (of even the most basic version) is still hard for me to swallow. Instead, I focus on taking high quality photos which minimizes the amount of editing I do. Usually, I resize and barely brighten images and that’s it. I crop my photos when I shoot not when I edit. Over-edited photos look so fake to me.

camera bag

When I’m not using my camera, I store it in this camera bag along with my lenses, user manual, memory cards and battery charger. My bag is ~4 years old and looks brand new. It protects my camera and keeps everything in one easy to grab and go place. I went to the Novogratz’s book signing two years ago and Robert complimented me on said bag so, BONUS!, it’s bona fide stylish.

Other than investing in good equipment and an informative e-course, I also regularly take time to study images I’m drawn to online and in print. What is the camera angle? Where is the light coming from? Is it a warm light or a cool light? What is particularly special about the composition? How is the photo styled? Is it a macro or wide angle shot? How is the image naturally cropped? This process might seem like a waste of time but it gives me ideas and leaves me inspired.

To me, photography is a skill that gets better and better with practice. The worst thing I’ve done is sat back and waited for the knowledge to come to me. It didn’t come. I had to go out and find it, learn it then implement it. And keep implementing it. I sometimes study my own images and critique them. What worked? What could I have done better? What can I learn from this and do differently the next time?

My photography has definitely improved since that first photo in 2009 but it isn’t perfect. It’s something I want to be better at. Eventually, I may upgrade my equipment if my skill set ever gets to the place where I think I’ve mastered my current camera. But I’m not there yet. It’s a process! And I haven’t ruled out Photoshop either.

Nowadays when the boys are at school and Mabrey is napping, one of my favorite things to do is bust out my camera and tripod and snap away. Which is strange considering it used to be my least favorite part of blogging.

What about you? Have you ever taken a photography class online or in person? Did you find it helpful?

P.S. – I would highly recommend Nicole’s Photo 101 class to anyone wanting to improve their DSLR photo skills whether they’re a blogger or not. The material mainly uses people and stills as examples but the information is easily applicable to interiors, too. This recommendation is not sponsored. I truly feel this way and am currently looking in to the Photo 102 class.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

12.01.13 / Sink Hole Quick Fix

The in-counter soap dispenser that came with our kitchen faucet is rusted out and has been since the day it was installed. I mentioned it here several months ago. I did some investigating and the actual pump – where the soap comes out, not the attached canister – was the culprit. Replacing the canister with another container wouldn’t have solved the problem. I could have 1) replaced the entire dispenser which runs about $25 or 2) capped it off which runs about $4. I decided to cap it off.

My kids have a difficult time reaching the in-counter pump so, for now, capping the sink hole is the best option while my kids are little. I can always add an in-counter pump later on when all my little people are grown and I have too much time on my hands and don’t know what to do with myself.

sinkhole 1

I removed the pump at the counter and unscrewed the canister from the underside of the counter. I was left with a large nut on the underside of the counter which I removed with the help of a wrench. Then I was able to pull the body of the dispenser off the top of the counter.

Capping off the remaining hole was easy enough. I used a stainless steel cover that I bought at Home Depot for less than $4. It took me longer to find the cover in the store than it did for me to install it.

Hint: sink hole covers are in a plumbing aisle not the kitchen sink aisle. You’re welcome.

The cover consists of three parts: cap screw, pad, plastic nut. I sunk the cap into the hole and then from the underside of the sink I slipped the pad up and screwed the nut securely.

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Instant gratification.

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Even though the new cover isn’t perfectly flush with the counter, the portable soap dispenser does a good job of disguising it with its padded bottom.

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Now my kids have no excuse not to wash their hands before dinner.

Yeeeaaaahhh. Riiiiiiiiiiight.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

10.16.13 / For $herdog

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The Jonathon Adler sconces are up!

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You may recall my plans to turn unused space between two freestanding wardrobes in the dining room / mudroom into a cozy nook. The small space receives a ton of natural light during the day but is dark and drab at night. I thought adding a pair of sconces to the outside panel of each wardrobe would be an easy fix. And it was!

The light comes as a plug-in but can be converted to hard-wire if necessary. We kinda did a hybrid install. The sconces plug into a wall outlet behind one of the wardrobes but HH routed holes in the wardrobes to run the cords sight unseen. So the sconces look like they are hard-wired but they aren’t.

jadler collage 1

Here is the wardrobe on the left. The sconce is mounted on the outer right panel. The cord runs through a small routed hole, down the back of the wardrobe and out through a hole at the bottom. A zip-tie and coordinating adhesive loop help keep the cord from getting tangled up in coats and hangers.

FYI – I’ve had numerous requests lately to share how our closets / linens / clothing are organized and how I keep them that way. I figured it would be easiest to address those questions in a single post. It’s coming soon!

jadler collage 2

The other wardrobe {noticeably less organized, ha!} contains shelves only – no hanging rods. The cord on this side runs through small holes routed into the backs of the shelves and out through a small hole at the bottom. We had to use an extension cord to reach the wall outlet behind the other wardrobe.

At first, HH and I weren’t sure if we wanted to mount the sconces with the cords running along the outsides or insides of the wardrobes. The sconces come with a coordinating cord cover for a polished look but it wouldn’t have extended all the way to the bench that sits below the window and we thought that might look strange. Also, we have kids and it’s likely one of them {hint: the shortest one} would be curious about the exposed cords. In the end, we decided to run the cords inside the wardrobes. We figured we were going to be drilling into the wardrobes either way. What was a few more small holes?

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Do you see that empty screw hole on the bottom of the backplate? That’s where the coordinating cord cover screws in if you use it. Running the cord into the wardrobe required a little more work than simply drilling a few holes. HH removed the wall bracket from the backside of the backplate to expose the wires. Then he disconnected the plug-in cord from the lamp like you would if you were doing a bona fide hard-wire installation. Why? This way we could thread the non-plug end of the cord through the holes in the wardrobe, keeping the size of the holes to a minimum. Otherwise, we would have had to drill holes large enough for the plug to pass through. Get it?

Once the cord was threaded through the wardrobe, HH installed the mounting bracket, reconnected all the wires and screwed the backplate / lamp into place.

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The sconces can be extended and adjusted. For our nook, I have the arm at the shortest setting and I like the shade directed straight down. There is a rotary switch on top of the shade to turn the light on and off. I didn’t read the fine print when I ordered the sconces and was pleasantly surprised to discover HI / LO settings the first time I turned them on. It’s the little things.

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It goes without saying but…I LOVE the new lights. I knew they would look good but they look even better than I had imagined. They are modern, simple and unique. A winning combo in my opinion. I’m aiming to post full on eye candy of the new and improved nook next week, sources included. {new and improved nook next week…say that ten times fast} I need to clean the sconces. I didn’t realize how smudgy they were until I took these pictures.

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This one’s for you, $herdog, you lover of all things Jonathon Adler.

Remember my easy fall wreath? Hop on over to Wayfair to check out more fall-inspired wreaths right here.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking