Nov 202017
 

This is another post which was written, but never shared.  It was waiting for the time I could share before and after pictures.  HOWEVER, there never were any after pictures as it never got painted.  This particular item is still with us, in its original state of being stained.  Currently it sits next to the fireplace, holding various library books.  It is still an easy DIY project, if you are looking for something similar.  

Garbage day is not only for getting rid of trash in your house, but can also be a source for ‘new’ items.  Because we live in Small Town and it is, well, small, I do not go driving around town looking for items placed out by trash cans.  However, sometimes I spot something and stop to take a look.  There is also a sort of unspoken rule that if you do not want something you sit it out by the trash cans, or along the street in front of your house, at any point during the week and others will probably take it.

This is how I ended up with an old magazine rack.  While we do not have magazines around here, we do have a lot of newspapers.  Specifically, my husband’s newspapers. I get so tired of stacks here and there, never knowing which have been read and which have not.  Knowing that he loves reading them, though, I try not to get rid of something without asking him.

Initially when I saw this, I thought that perhaps I could clean it up and find a new home for it.  Then I thought of the newspapers and knew what its new purpose would be – a newspaper rack.  Then it sat on my washer for several months.  Even find that happening at your house?

Every time I went to do a load of laundry I contemplated what to do with the ‘new’ find – I did not want to leave it the wood color it was, as we already have a lot of wood in the house.  Black would show every little bit of dirt and dust, of which we have a lot here in this part of the country.  White would get dingy from fingerprints.  Finally, out of indecisivness I told my husband my plans and asked his opinion.

“Paint it green.”

“Okay, what kind of green?”

“You decide.  Just make it green.”

Well, that was easy.  Months of me thinking about it and it took him all of 10 seconds.  By the way, this is how our wedding colors were decided, I took him to the paint section in a store and told him to find colors he liked.  I was trying to involve him in the process, he just wanted it to be decided quickly.

I have never spray painted furniture before, though I have done so with some metal vents in our house.  I knew that with wood, especially an item that had already had a finish on it, there were more steps beyond: 1. wash, 2. Paint.  To the internet I went.  Here are some of the links I found helpful.

Furniture Makeover: Spray Painting Wood Chairs

http://www.bluecricketdesign.net/2009/07/furniture-refinishing.html

Oct 282016
 

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Sep 192016
 

full-sun-bed-with-garden-shed

Even the most beautiful of gardens will still require things that may not be so beautiful – buckets, gloves, shovels, wheel barrows, pots waiting to be used, compost piles in the process of breaking down, etc.  Whether these items must be seen or hidden in side a building or container, they are all a part of the business of gardening.

Knowing these items are needed, how do you then keep them being an asset to your garden rather than a distraction from the beauty you are trying to create? Sometimes all it takes is some consideration before moving forward.

In the photo above, you can see the top of the garden shed.  Instead of distracting, the materials used, the shape of the roof, and even the color of the building itself compliment the garden.  At some point in this garden’s history a decision was made to build in this style.  They could have just as easily put up a cinder block building with a green metal roof.  The function of that building would have been the same, but the visual impact would have been vastly different.

Instead of trying to hide a building that would have been an eye-sore, they chose to build something from the start which would add to the enjoyment of the garden.  Even in winter, when all the leaves on the trees have dropped, the flowers have faded away, and the tall grasses are not so tall, the building stands as a welcome sign, inviting you come visit.  Not often found on garden sheds, the small porch and its overhang have provided both shade and protection from the elements to more than one visitor, my family included.

This post contains affiliate links.

Sep 012016
 

processing tomatoesHave you noticed a lack of canning posts this year?  If not, I sure have.  I have also noticed the lack of variety in our home canned items in the pantry, the abundance of empty jars sitting around, and the amount of other items left over from past canning seasons.

The jam and jelly making marathon 3 years ago meant we are still eating blackberry jam, tomato marmalade, and apple jelly syrup (the jelly did not set).  Thanks to the Farm Market Swap last year, we do have some variety in the house.

Due to the demands of life we right now, spending hours canning produce and taking care of a large garden were things I had to admit I could not do this year.  What I did do were the basics, things we would really have missed if they were not present.  These are also things that happen to make my life easier.  Namely – cherry tomatoes, a few regular tomato plants, pearl onions for stews this winter, pizza sauce, and crushed tomatoes.  If there is anything else we really need, like spaghetti sauce, I can easily order a few jars online if I really did not want to go to the store.  At this point, it is worth if for me to accept that option.

The blackberry bushes and strawberry beds are at a point where not a lot of attention is needed.  This is a nice stage, as I can reap the fruits of my labor without spending a lot of labor doing so.  What I was not going to do with these fruits, was to make jams. (see paragraph above)  Instead we ate them fresh as they came on and I did not feel guilty about it one bit.

In mid summer, I was presented with the opportunity to can tomatoes.  My garden had not started to produce enough, but a local farmer/gardener had grown some in a greenhouse and theirs were ready.  As it turns out, they were a bit green still, but I was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.  I knew that if I did not take advantage of this opportunity at this moment, there would be no canning done during the normal growing season.

tomato canning goals 2016

I sat down, making a list of my pantry desires.  As it turns out, we really do not eat a quart of beets a week.  At this rate I can safely say it is more like a quart every 3 weeks.  Not looking to make that mistake again, I added in the desired, realistic amount.

First up, diced tomatoes.  I had not canned these before, only crushed, but hoped diced would be just as easy and a nicer texture in some of our meals this winter.  After all, the diced tomatoes at the grocery store came out looking so nice this past winter. diced tomatoes collage

Um, yeah, I am not the grocery store.  🙂 They will taste the same, but not exactly like I hoped they would look.  Perhaps if the tomatoes had been more mature it would have worked out better.

We like the taste of roasted tomatoes in the new tomato soup recipe we have been using.  Made it the other day with candy onions and the taste was even better.  Thought it was so good I would try it with pizza sauce.  It changes the first steps a bit, though that is not too hard of a change.

Using pickyourown.org‘s recipe I adjusted the steps to incorporate roasting the tomatoes.  Before placing the tomatoes on the pans to roast (make sure you line it well with foil or else you will be getting new pans out of this process), I squeezed out all the extra juice I could.  This was collected in bowls and pans for use later if needed.

roasted tomatoes collage

Since roasting takes at least an hour, after many batches the house was smelling very yummy.

Using the roasted tomatoes, I proceeded with the recipe, adding back in any extra liquid needed.  As it turned out, I added back in most of what I had squeezed out.  The roasting process had removed a fair amount from the tomatoes themselves, so there really was less liquid than when I started the whole process.

Without the need to cook down the recipe, I was able to greatly reduce the amount of stop top cooking time.  It sort of made up for the late night I had finishing up the last batch roasting in the oven.

pizza sauce collage

In the images above, I got a bit zealous filling the jars.  The jar in the top right corner is too full.  If I tried to place this in the pressure canner, it would never seal.  Removing a table spoon or two (lower left photo above) put it exactly where it needed to be.  A quick wiping of the jar lid and it was ready to go.

What I have not shown you is the canning of crushed tomatoes.  I was tempted to can up more pizza sauce.  However, at the end of the light night of roasting, I nixed that idea and moved on to crushed tomatoes.

Right now though, I think I will go use some of the above pizza sauce and make lunch.  That sounds really good today.

 

This post contains affiliate links.

Aug 062016
 

yard sale boy clothes

Hello! Yes, I am still here. No I have not forgotten about you. There were several nights I sat down to post something, only to fall asleep in the middle of a thought.  Not very productive that way.

It is now 3 in the afternoon and I am finishing up my (late) lunch while typing this out on my phone. I apologize now for the graphics. No fancy borders or watermarks, but I also shouldn’t fall asleep on you.

money

 

Here are some numbers from our 3 day garage sale:

* Saturday’s earnings contributed only 10% to our overall total. It was pretty much a waste of time.

* Thursday was the best day.

* Most of my items were priced at $1 or $0.25. The goal was to sell, not make lots of money.

* The fan with a broken clip sold, but not the small kids’ bike with training wheels.

* The two security system signs sold (we had that particular service 2 houses and about 10 years ago), but not the cute little black purse.

* The most requested item was tomatoes, and other fresh produce.  It seems my road side table has been noticeably missed by many in the community.

*Almost no kids clothes sold. The ones that did sell were not till Saturday late morning.

* After 6 days of carrying boxes up from our basement, pricing items, and holding the sale, I made less than my husband does in one day at work.

* We got rid of almost 2/3 of our items either by selling, giving, or throwing them away.

* My husband only ate lunch out one day. The other days were sandwiches at home.

* I am pretty sure I lost a few pounds along the way.

free sale by curb

From now on, I believe I will stick to our local online For Sale page or just give items away on a “Free” table by the curb. In all, after all the work, ignoring the house and kids, being tired and grumpy and hot, I made less than $5 an hour. That amount increases a bit if I would have skipped having a garage sale on Saturday altogether.

My husband said he would have just thrown everything in the trash. 🙂 For his time, it was very much NOT worth it. Myself, being one who wants to keep things out of the landfills and who does not work outside of the home, it would have meant:

  1. making many, many trips to Big Town with the kids and spending money on gas for the 1 hour round trip, to donate these items.
  2. Or I would have had a free sale over the course of the week to get rid of the items.

For me, it was better, in time and money, than the donating option.  However, it was a draw on the Free Sale option; it was worse time wise but better money wise.

Right now, though, I am going to focus on dishes and laundry … and something cold to drink.

Jul 282016
 

This post contains affiliate links.

what to do when life becomes a bit batty

continued from Part 2

What I found was a tired, motionless bat, laying on the shower floor. I called the kids in to see and talk through the situation.  Never too early to teach them how to handle certain adult responsibilities.  Who knows, they may end up marrying someone who would run away screaming at the sight of a bat, and they will need to know how to handle something like this.

We were not sure if it was still alive or not, which meant we treated it as if it were. FYI: do not pick up a bat with your hands.

A plastic tub was placed over the bat and the piece of cardboard slid underneath.  Yup, still alive.  The clue? When it started fluttering around to get up on the cardboard.

We stopped our morning routine, grabbed a container of sidewalk chalk and headed outside.  The bat, who had been kept covered the whole way out, was laid uncovered, still on the cardboard, near the street while we kept watch from the sidewalk.

Distracted by busy ants working in the grass, we missed the bat flying off.  I believe I saw it head to the neighbor’s house.  Don’t quote me on that though.

I like bats.  They eat mosquitoes.  I want to encourage them to live near us … but not IN our house.

A quick search online resulted in finding an Ento Wood Bat House Kit. Using a gift card from Swagbucks, the bat house was soon on its way  “Perfect.  The kids can help hammer and we can hang it somewhere nearby.”

It arrived about a week later and sat around for a few more weeks.  Finally the day came where we had time to put it together.

Going to the garage we spread out all of the pieces, compared them to the instructions, then began assembling.

bat house opening collage

George got mad at Jack and stomped off early on in the process.  He watched the rest of the time from the garage door.

Jack learned very quickly that placing all the nails into their holes before hammering may have seemed like an efficient idea, but did not work out so well.  When he started to hammer, the nails jumped every which way and fell out. Oops.  This being the garage, and my husband having recently gotten a flat tire while traveling, I was very firm attentive that all the nails be kept in a pile where we could keep track of them.

begin to build bat house collage

Once the pieces were laid out and instructions read, the kids had a hard time being patient with this first step, we started to put the pieces together.  Getting the side pieces lined up and straight was a bit of a challenge as I was trying to get them perfect.  I hammered the first two nails on each side in hopes of making it easier for Jack to finish the remaining nails.

putting together bat house collage

The back actually had two pieces, a top and a bottom.  These were not labeled, so I triple checked the pictures on the instructions before beginning.  I compared the holes in each piece, matching those shown on the photos and what was required in future steps.

After turning the piece over, I realized the side pieces did not quite make it to the top of the mesh.  This meant the ‘roof’ had two issues going: 1. it was below the holes pre-drilled for nailing it to the back, and 2. it was over top of the mesh by just a bit.  It would have been better for the bottom pieces to not be exactly level with the bottom of the box. So much for me trying to be perfect.

issues with putting together bat house collage

A few more issues we ran into were – the side pieces were not exactly straight and a nail went through the side when attaching the back.  The second issue was caused by the first.  Neither was a big deal in the end, but were both frustrations when we were in the midst of putting it together.

issues with bat house collage

The roof misalignment issue was fairly easily solved.  Nails were placed below the pre-drilled holes, in places that lined up with the actual roof piece.  There was a bit of a gap in the end, though very small and nothing noticeable once it was hung.  I also placed it on a side of the tree that is normally protected from the rain and snow.

bat house hanging on tree

When all was said and done, I was pleased with the look of the Ento Wood Bat House Kit.  The kids are excited for their first residents to move in.  More than once I have had to tell them to leave it be – no climbing toys to look inside, no poking a stick into it, etc.  My hope is that this will also solve the bat roommate problems inside our house.

This post contains affiliate links.  I was in no way compensated for this review.

Jun 152016
 

cutting closet woodInspiration can be like a wave, far away then suddenly crashing into you with such force you get knocked over. It seems to come while your attention to focused on something else in the opposite direction.

I have spent countless hours, usually while painting, trying to figure out what to do with our new, very large closet.  I looked at pictures online, looked for ideas with apps such as Houzz, and checked out This Old House for ideas and suggestions.  In the end I had a lot more idea than when I had began, but nothing seemed to fit my need.

I have turned it over and over in my mind to no avail. The back wall/ceiling angles toward the front of the closet, starting at about 4 feet up from the floor. I searched and searched the internet for ideas, but found nothing to fit our needs. Last night I changed my search terms and found the beginning of my wave.

The first trickle almost knocked my socks off with the cost; it was a $120 find. That was only for the supports for the rod. Hmm. Not quit what I wanted as my goal is to spend under $100 for the whole closet. BUT it meant there were options out there and I was on the right track.

I kept going.

Then I came across the Closet of Greatness.  I felt their pain on the closet issue. Then I saw their solution. Not only did it solve my dilemma, but it also fit my budget.

That is when the wave made my knees start to buckle.

This afternoon I was standing in front of the closet when the rest of the wave knocked me right over. See, I was working on the garage his morning , not even thinking about the closet. Well, except maybe to grumble about it to myself.

I was returning tools to the closet, not intending to think about the layout at all, when it hit me. I had been going about it all wrong.

Now that I no longer needed a floor-to-ceiling support half way through, I did not have to have a shelving unit between the doors going from the front to the back of the closet. “But what about shelving?” So I measured.

I should have enough room to make a two-tiered closet, a rod up high and one lower. The lower one will be set back some, supported by brackets along the flat wall.

“Brackets like I have in our current closet. …. Brackets that can have a shelf attached to them!”

The wave hit me full force.

All at once I found ourselves 13 feet of shelving space and 26 feet of hanging space. Given I barely use the 3 feet I currently have, I think we will be good on room to hang our clothes.

The shelf will serve as space for linens, shoes, etc. This will eliminate the need for a shoe rack and for storing our sheets in Jack’s closet.

I need to run the idea past my husband and get his input, of course, before moving forward. It is his closet, too, after all.

There are some details I have to iron out, like whether to add the lower rod right now or wait or whether to put our dressers in there and add rods and shelves on the extra space around them.

**********************************

Update:

I have ordered the Angled Ceiling Supports from Groover and installed the closet.  I wanted to wait to post this till it was all in and I decided whether I was happy with the solution I had found.  Though there were several patience trying moments, most of them were of my own making or due to a previous contractor’s measuring issue. (more on that below.)

I have now had the closet in for a few weeks and am really happy with the supports for our closet.  Once I had the right tools, and no whining kids who did not understand why they could not just drill holes at will, things went well.

Before beginning I had called Groover Enterprises to ask a few questions.  David took the time to answer my questions, even though he was working on something else at that time.  I appreciated his attention and assurances on measurements.

Here is what the final result looks like:

diy closet system

A trip to the local hardware store resulted in a 16 foot rod to use for hanging clothes.  Thankfully it was the local store, as my car does not have the space to put a 16 foot pool inside. We took the side streets back to the house.

I also opted to go for a pine board for the shelf rather than a laminated board.  Not only did it cost less, but I could stain it to match the closet rods and the future, hopefully soon, doors and trim for the room.

staining closet wood

Another change I made was to place both of our dressers inside the closet.  My husband was not so sure of the idea, but I like that they will be behind closed doors.  They also add a horizontal surface at no additional cost.  If we do not like it, I can always go back and change it.

Having made that change, I was able to use a left over rod from our basement.  I am not sure why the previous owners had this, apparently there were plans for it that never transpired.  It has come in handy though and several projects have cut it down from 16+ feet long to now about 2 feet.

Using stain and polyurethane I already owned, I began the process of turning the unfinished wood into something that looked classier.  Setting up saw-horses in the garage over top a plastic sheeting gave me room to work.  The staining took the longest drying but not in application.  Adding the polyurethane meant the wood and stain would be protected and have a semi-gloss finish.  This is a step that you do not have to do, but which pays off over time and is a nice final touch.

Another time consuming step that I had not planned on, was finding the studs behind the drywall.  I measured and marked, having a good idea of where they should be.  As it turns out, they were off several times.  I played “find the stud” with the drill rather than use the stud finder.  Why? I find that the stud finder does not always find the stud and takes longer in the end.

Below: I had found one stud on the third try (on the right, marked with the check mark), measured the 12 inches to where I thought the other one was, then got really frustrated when I didn’t find it and decided to just drill in a line both directions till I did find it.  Turns out it was at 15 1/2 inches.  What you do not see is that the one after this was at 16 1/2 inches.  And the one after that?  Well, it was finally at the 16 inches it was supposed to be … if they were not at the 12 inches like I thought they were placed.  Honestly, this was the worst seek-and-find of all the places.  Thankfully it is hidden by the shelf.

finding closet studs

Below: This was more typical of me trying to find the studs.  In this case my first two holes ended up just on either side of the stud.  It took the rest of the holes for me to figure that out and make my last hole in the middle of the first two I had drilled.  Thankfully not all were like this, though there were enough to make me extremely frustrated by the process.  Out of the 6 upper supports, I had trouble finding 3.  Considering two were next to the wall, that is not a good average.closet remodel finding studs

I am glad I did not jump in with a more complicated arrangement.  Instead I have a nice base for adding to or changing in the future as we use the closet and see what our needs warrant.

So, did all this work really save money?

Yes.

  • In all my costs were very near $100, about half of that being the supports for the clothes rods.  I may have gone over by a few dollars due to buying a new can of polyurethane.  I opted for the larger can, knowing I would be needing it in the near future and any unused product would keep for future, unknown projects.
  • We now have stained wood for our closet system rather than the coated wire option.  Even if we had wanted to go with the wire option, available at most stores, it would not have worked for our closet dimensions.  It also would have cost around $400 to find something for half of the closet.
  • While it took a bit longer for me to buy, cut, stain, and varnish the wood, I enjoyed the process and did not need to pay someone to do it.

child helping with closet

This project was also easy enough that I will do something similar with our now ‘old’ closet.  This closet has rods to hang clothes on, also double-tiered, but ones which were not stained nor attached to the brackets.  That particular project was a first for me, and more involved in a shorter amount of time than the closet above.

I am going to stain and add polyurethane to the rods with the kids’ help.  Being able to use rags instead of brushes as applicators makes it much more kid friendly.

While the kids may not appreciate the skill at this time, my hope is it will at least give them the confidence as they are older to tackle things on their own.  This is the same reason I let them help patch (small areas) of dry wall, use the drill to make holes and put in screws, paint, pull carpet, cut boards, etc.

Jun 062016
 

Ever get the urge to clean when you are angry, frustrated, depressed, feeling like life is out of control? I find cleaning helps me get things back into perspective with throwing dishes against a wall.  Please tell me I am not the only one to feel this way…

Today I got some surprising, bad news. Someone passed away who had made a large impact on my life, who I was around every day for years when I was a teenager. After shedding more than a few tears I looked around for something to do, something active. Dishes (washing, not throwing) and laundry were not going to cut it this time.

“Well, the closet rods and shelf need to be cut and stained …”

After a quick look on the internet, to review the staining process, I gathered supplies and headed out to the garage.

cutting closet wood

It has been almost an hour, my mind has worked through memories, my hands have made progress on cutting and sanding, and I feel more even keeled emotionally. I also feel more motivated on this part of the project to get the closet finished on the inside.  Sometimes all it takes is starting.

The 9 week Intro To Shop class in 7th grade seems to have paid off. Not only did we make a cutting board, but I learned how to smooth sharp edges off the corners of boards by hand. You never know which lessons will stick with you and be needed later, much later, in life.

********************************

After the kids were in bed, I thought about heading there myself.  As tempting as it was, I was exhausted after all, my better side won over and I headed back out to the garage to stain the wood.  The stain needed to dry for several hours before I could put on a final coat of polyurethane, which will take all day to dry properly.  I know that if I waited till the morning to stain I would rush the drying step.   Better to get up and do it right then, allowing it to thoroughly dry overnight.

This morning I was glad to have completed this step last night, as I am able to keep up the momentum and get this finished between breakfast, morning routines and laundry.  With the next few days holding out-of-home activities, and me wanting to get our closet to the point where we can hang clothes, I can use all time saving steps available.  Yes, it meant staying up another 45 minutes, but it saved hours today.

staining closet wood

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May 242016
 

Hark, Hark! the Lark may be a great poem. We read it for our Poem of the Day earlier this week.  It is definitely better than Screech, Screech! the European Starling that is happening right now in our attic.

These wonderfully annoying, invasive birds found a hole (made by a squirrel?) in our soffet, pulled out newly installed insulation, and built a nest. Isn’t nature wonderful?

The baby birds are bigger now and louder.  At this moment they are adamantly demanding food.

Due to where they are, their calls are echoing down our stairway.

*************

Turns out, it was so loud because a young bird was sitting at the top of the stairway. Let it not be said that my kids have had a boring childhood. A game of “Catch the bird without scaring it; we do not need bird poop on the new carpet” is a rousing way to spend your morning.

Sorry, no photos. Maybe next time. After all, there are more young ones in the nest still.

The next adventure awaits my husband – climbing up and over the roof to cover the hole.  If I tried it, I am pretty sure Jack would try to follow me. It would result in this conversation:

“Yes, Doctor, my 7 year old was on top of a two story roof and thought the valley between the roofs would make a wonderful slide down into the sandbox. No, I did not tell him he could follow me up there. Yes, I told him to stay off the ladder. No, he did not know think about the 13’+ dropped before landing 5′ shy of the sandbox.”

Mar 282016
 

2 snowy seats and table

Recently I shared 3 projects I would love to make for my garden from wood pallets.  While searching for idea, I came across a few more that would work great for the yard.  These are also projects in which I can involve the kids. 

How about this great porch swing, but turned into a tree swing? I know the perfect limb ….

A shelf to tuck in along a porch corner? Sold. Finding furniture I can leave out rain or shine, or snow, is hard to find. The screened in section of our porch is usually protected, but still is prone to moisture and lots of wind.  There is a section of wall perfect for a shelving unit. It would be a great place to store outside toys, games, and items for entertaining. A much better idea than the low table we currently have which has become a dumping ground.  This is also a project that could be worked on at any point in the year.

I am really liking the idea of this Ottoman for the porch. It would fulfil various needs as time arose – storage for toys or cushions, an extra seat, IR an ottoman. There is the slight detail that this is made from a crate instead if a pallet, but it is a great idea to go from.