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.


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.


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 🙂

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!
Here’s that dirty wall. We will repaint next summer anyways, but this will keep it from happening again.
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.
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!
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.
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.

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.

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.
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.
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!
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.

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.

Field trip! Halloween-appropriate.

We recently found out that someone fulfilled a request I posted online years ago: on a web site called Find a Grave, you can request photos of someone’s grave site. Way back then, I had found this Find a Grave site and it listed the cemetery where Carlotta (who was the original owner of our house) was buried. I went to the cemetery, walked all over, and couldn’t find her stone! So I posted a request for a photo of the grave on that site. About a month ago, someone happened to photograph her stone and post it, so we took the photo (which had a useful view of a fence in it) and went back to find her stone. And we found it! We’ve since found out that she died in 1930, just a few years after the cabin was built.

There were some other quite old stones there, each with its own charm.

It was a good field trip, and we did a loop, stopping also to pick up some wood slabs (of course) and for a really great lunch at a place we’d never tried before in Searsport.

One more garden

So what if it’s fall already? Now is the best time to hit the nursery sales. And one area over our septic tank had fairly thin soil where nothing would take, so we rolled some rocks over and created one more raised bed. We put in some locally-raised junipers (var. Bar Harbor), some nice perennial grasses, and some echinacea. In back is an oak-leaf hydrangea (Ruby Slippers), made possible by the new light regime with the maple gone. The yard is almost starting to look organized. More gardening in spring.

Got the red out

We have been working on the porch like forever. It has been part of all the renovations since day 1 – first de-crapping it, making it sound enough to stand on, fixing the foundation, roofing, rebuilding the steps, putting up railings and posts, and decking. But when we looked up, it was still un-done. It still had a lot of red paint, a color we hope to never see again.

Because we saved the best (and least important structurally) for last: re-painting, re-staining, re-caulking, and re-trimming. Well, after many days on a variety of ladders, we finished! All that’s left to do is scrub off a couple of paint drops and put shutter dogs on the shutters. Oh, and restore two front-facing windows…next summer. And also install one last light fixture. Quick stuff!

Et voila!


Way, way before. 90 years ago.


After. Yeah ok, still need some second coats of stain.


Voluntary blackout

See that nice man in the cherry picker? He was here Friday morning to cut power to the cabin. 

Yes, we asked for a weekend in the dark. One of the last summer jobs is to finish staining, painting, and caulking the porch, and we needed to do the section where the service line attaches to the house. Because we’re 15 feet in the air on ladders doing this, and it involves at least one power tool as well as having to move the loop of wire to get to some logs, we opted to avoid getting shocked and just turn off the juice. Luckily, the garage is on a completely separate meter, so it could stay on! Totally unforeseen benefit. We had a schedule and a deadline, given many drying time cycles, and the weather just barely cooperated–we made it! Now to have them out to hook us back up tomorrow (fingers crossed), because we really need a shower! 

Here’s how we survived, besides filling a bunch of water jugs for drinking, washing, and flushing:

Porch coffee, thanks to garage extension cord.

And crock pot on a rock (tonight is stroganoff with some garden green beans tossed in).

Maybe later we’ll haul the microwave out on the porch for popcorn and movie night, running old DVDs on a laptop. Not so much roughing it…but that SHOWER would be just so great.

Evening quick project!

It was a long day of work and so I was pretty stoked to get home and put up shutters on the porch –
I realized yesterday that a set was ready to go with a super-quick paint addition. So, here they are:

Overseas, overhead, screened over

Last week I was in the Czech Republic, hence no blogging. It was awesome! It was a work trip with some sightseeing as well. Prague is as amazing as everyone says. There’s an eye-candy slideshow at the bottom of this post, but since this is a cabin blog, here’s what happened while I was away and since I got back.

K worked on making screens for all the windows! Having no screens on most of the good cross-breeze windows has meant either having lots of mosquitoes (no thanks) or being pretty hot in here (also no thanks). Next summer we’ll be set! He used a pile of never-used screens we picked up at the ReStore several years ago for about $10, and cut down/rebuilt to fit the openings. He used up all my vintage galvanized hinges, and knobs/hooks are on the way. Now you just swing open the screen, open the window, and close the screen again – we saw this style on some new Marvin windows a while ago, and it’s perfect for our windows.

Then, we got back to porch painting this weekend. It was ladder weekend, since the front section (the only one remaining!) is at a bit of a height. We did all we could this weekend, and need to get the power shut off to finish up next weekend. So we’ll be boondocking it. But, such an improvement – this is the last of the old, cruddy red paint!

And – the Czech trip photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.