Garden dreaming

We are really looking forward to getting out to do some landscaping and gardening this summer, with priorities in the back yard and some smaller projects out front. As we were thinking about the back yard, I realized that last year, every time I wanted to pop in a plant or snag a weed, I had to run through our around the house, down 25 steps, and to the garage to grab my trowel or weeder and gloves. Barring adding a shed out back (which we don’t want to do), it seemed that having a stash of simple tools would be ideal, so I looked online for old mailboxes, thinking I could install one that would look window-box-like under the bathroom window, in easy reach. Most of the ones I liked on ebay or etsy were a fortune – but I found this gem for under $20 and the seller worked with me to reduce shipping to a reasonable amount. And it’s absolutely perfect – exactly what I was imagining, and old galvanized, beat-up mailbox from a farm in the midwest. We cleaned it up and clearcoated it to keep any additional rust from forming, mounted it, and popped in some new tools and a pair of gloves my Aunt sent me last fall. Now we’re ready, whenever the sun wants to come out.

Sealing the ceiling

We are behind on posts, but we’ve been working away at a bunch of tiny projects – the kind that live on the punch list until everything more fun is done, and you can’t ignore them any more, and it’s still to cold to garden. So here come a few posts about insignificant-seeming projects that nonetheless make our space a nicer place. First off, the ceiling in one corner of the kitchen where all the leftover evils gathered: the uneven underside of the loft floor, a flying beam from the bedroom wall, the open top near the bathroom fan that we weren’t sure we were ready to close in. It wasn’t really visible as it was above a small kitchen cabinet, but needed to be closed in nonetheless. Enter some leftover log slabs, a 1/4 sheet of whitewashed plywood (this was new to us, like this but 1/2″ thickness), and some patience as we made a zillion cardboard templates since the shape of everything was crazy.
Somehow I didn’t get any before pictures.


Note new clamps! I had an old un-used Groupon for Rockler and we remembered to stop by when we were on mini-vacation a few weeks ago. They work great! Just ignore that hole in the wall – it was where we were going to put a fixture until we found the cabinet. Luckily the cabinet covers it :).
Everything in, and caulked the edges. Just needs final touch-up at this stage.

Finished! I’m not sure anyone else will notice, but I feel better.

Nice legs!

Still winter, still weird weather – hot, cold, ice, snow, rain, ugh! Not so easy to do big projects. So, another little one: I’ve wanted to change out the legs on our fairly generic Target storage benches that make up the ‘dining room’ banquette forever, and finally found two sets that are close enough matches and the right length on ebay. (Set two in the mail now – they look like a match, so fingers crossed). Today I grabbed new top plates (brackets) for them, and installed the first set. Thank goodness new plates are still made for the exact same thread pattern. The new-old legs are so much more classy! Witness: before, so blocky and really poorly made/finished.

And after, so chic! And solid. Nothing like vintage – you get good quality with the right feel.

 

And the side-by-side comparison. No contest.

Stay tuned for more cabin-fever fun!

 

Pretty pictures

We did do some projects this week, but minor ones, or ones that aren’t quite done yet. But, we had the prettiest day today and it seemed like maybe just some pretty pictures capture it for the week. This first set is in the back yard:

And these lovely bits are from walking the dogs around the lake. Snow was unloading from branches the whole time – the dogs kept thinking I was throwing snowballs at them!

We’re starting to get fired up for spring projects–it suddenly feels not so far away.

Last light

We finished! The last light installation – finally! We were set to do it in the fall, but a series of work things and weather surprises kept us from installing this last porch light. Last weekend, we had an unseasonably warm day (a little over 40 degrees – heat wave!), so we set up the ladder and got this light installed over the front steps. It made a huge difference – especially on these dark winter nights. Still to do: we need at least a week of 40 degree temps to caulk around the fixture, but that can wait until spring. We’re crossing this off the list anyways.

 

Little hollow log

Little jobs are on the docket this winter. First, developing something to hide our last messy bit of infrastructure: a mess of cords and wiring that had to be in this location next to the pellet stove. Yes, it took me two years to think of an appealing, creative solution for this.

 

I was inspired by out pile of log slabs–cut-offs from mills, usually free or nearly free, that we burn for the hot tub but have found myriad other uses for. And I decided to build a fake little hollow log by matching up slabs and attaching them together with cleats, thusly:

Looked pretty good. Some log caulk will help hide the seams.

But what to top it with? Pondered a stretched bit of leather (like a drum), a metal cap, or a wood top, and then I happened across someone selling log “cookies” for a couple bucks each – perfect. I grabbed two (I’m sure we’ll find a use for the second one!) and scribed it to fit the odd profile against the log wall. And here it is! First unfinished, then stained so it blends in with the old log walls. One problem solved, a million to go.

 

Holiday projects 2017

We like to have a quiet holiday at home. Quiet except for power tools, the nail gun, etc. This year’s project was smaller scale than last year’s (we built the whole loft! Jeez, industrious). We aimed to build a console-type unit behind the couch, sacrificing 4.5″ inches of floor space to hide the ladder, a bunch of infrastructure, and add an outlet with USB plugs behind the couch. In a funny twist, even though we built in 8 outlets on the living room wall, the couch covered nearly all of them! So we got this handy little extension, bought one new board, and set to work. Besides the two new items and some $3 hinges, we had everything else we needed in the scrap pile or as leftovers from previous projects. Two cool catches we purchased for another project last year but never used were put into service, and they worked really well. One and Two.

We also (finally) added baseboards on all the white walls, so earrings can stop rolling under the walls. They really made the place look a good bit sharper too. FYI, mid-century style baseboard selections are fairly limited (either flat stock or something with a simple square bead profile), so we were stoked to find these in stock at the big box (though MDF is not a favorite material, everything else about it was right).

The punch list is getting shorter! But don’t worry, plenty left to do. And I still have some time off for break, so we’ll see what else we come up with.

Snow!

It’s been late in coming, but the first snow was great this weekend! Not too deep (but deep enough), and the sun came out afterwards. Just a few photos to celebrate winter, and how nice the porch looks with its snowy blanket for contrast.

Headboard

It’s Thanksgiving break, so we’re finally able to catch up on punch list items, and on this blog! First project was to finally build a headboard. We originally weren’t planning on having one, but a white-painted wall where our sometimes dirty hair rests is not a great idea (did we mention we work a lot, and are outside a lot, and have two dogs?). First, I measured and found it could be a nice standard dimension: 18″x48″. Off to the big box store for a 2’x4′ handy panel of 1/2″ plywood, and had them cut it to 18″ wide. I also successfully begged some scrap plywood in their cut pile, that another customer had left, to reinforce a garage shelf that I didn’t really want to have to pay to do. Yesss!

Then, to the fabric store for foam padding (I used this stuff, NuFoam, to see how it holds up), batting (I used this stuff, Soft & Bright, which was really easy to work and simple looking in case the fabric I picked had any openwork), and fabric. There was a fabric sale, plus I had a coupon, plus I was shopping the clearance pile, so I picked up three options each 2′ long by 54-58″ wide. Each piece was $2-4, and one I didn’t use is going to become scarves. I ended up using the $2 remnant, of course.

First I laid out the batting, foam, then plywood on the floor. I folded (double-fold at the edge) the batting as I knelt on the plywood to contour the foam. I wanted to staple the inner layers separate from the final fabric so I can later remove the outer fabric and change it out without messing up the guts. This makes changing colors a few dollar job and a few minutes on a staple gun. No photos of the stapling of either layer. Sorry 🙂

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Next, We used these flush-mount hangers I had from a yard sale grab bag a few years ago. Somehow I both (a) knew I still had them, and (b) was able to find them right away!
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Here’s that dirty wall. We will repaint next summer anyways, but this will keep it from happening again.
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We measured and first attached the mounting brackets to the wall — we had a handy reference line because the wall is vertical v-groove — then attached them to the back of the headboard, which took a bit of trial and error. Only put one screw in each until you get the spacing right.
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And voila, done. It looks a little more lumpy along the top in this photo than in person, but it shows the fabric. I went in thinking “navy blue mid-century tweed” and was determined to stick to the clearance aisle; there was a lovely herringbone tweed that could have been used on Mad Men, but it was tan. All tan!!! This color worked perfectly and I love the dark tones in the tweed. Good enough!
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Supermodel Bisbee insists on being in the rest of the photos. Actually, she is really insisting on watching for chipmunks and barking noisily about them.
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Although I originally wanted to keep it really spare in the bedroom (it’s tiny!), the addition of the headboard really improves the scale of the back wall overall. And it was really comfortable for reading! A good addition.
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Shrink the drafts

Winter is coming – someday? We just had the warmest October on record and are about 5 weeks past our usual winterizing date. Which worked out great, because this fall K has decided to build custom storm window inserts instead of shrink-wrapping plastic directly to our freshly painted window casings.

We used a method we developed at our previous house, but improved a few parts of the process. They end up costing about $12 per window, and are re-useable (we used the ones at the last house for about 7 years or so). They dramatically cut the drafts, and don’t look bad either. This set, since they are painted to match the sashes. are almost invisible in some rooms.

First, he builds the frames from 1×2 pine, this time using our handy doweling jog (last time we did lap joints). He puts a center bar made from 1×1 across about halfway down – we originally skipped this at the other house but had lots of warping and some breakage. Then he painted each frame with the same paint as the sashes.

Then, we put the tape that comes with the window shrink film all the way around one face, pressing well. Stick on the plastic and flip over, repeat.

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This size worked for most windows; we got some different sizes for the larger ones. There’s thicker plastic you can buy in a roll, but it doesn’t shrink – so it’s not as clear. We do a double-layer of film with an airspace between, so it’s not necessary to use the thick stuff.
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Then (and this is something we didn’t do at the other house but we did have a few inserts where the thin plastic tape peeled off), we used this more expensive tape (about $2/insert) and went around the outside edge of each window, folding down to capture the edges of the shrink film.
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Next, we stapled on two tabs (we use folded-over ribbon or cotton strapping – whatever we have saved up in the fabric-ends bin). These allow you to pull the insert out and adjust it too. Then the fun part – shrinking!
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Finally, cut 1/2″ inner diameter pipe insulation to bevel the corners, wrap around each edge by slipping it over the slit side, and press-fit the completed storm insert. Most of ours fit great with the screens still operable on top. Closing the screens hides nearly all of the insert, and they are quite clear when shrunk.
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We have already noticed a huge difference in draftiness, and condensation on our 90-year-old windows is much reduced. Hopefully we’ll use a few less bags of pellets this winter.