I built a fence

We went to the hardware store yesterday to get some French gothic pickets.  We couldn’t buy the pre-made section of fence because it would not fit in my vehicle.  Also, it is less expensive to make your own… and SO fun!

On a long cable lead, so he won’t dart away, (which he has been known to do on more than one occasion), the big brown dog goes down the deck stairs to the backyard to do his biness.  While down there, he also routinely wraps his lead and himself around the deck posts.  Now, the interesting thing is he does it on purpose.  Seriously.  Also, he KNOWS how to untangle himself, but he prefers to wait until I tramp all the way down there, cursing under my breath, before he untangles himself.  When he sees me he runs around the post to untangle himself, before hopping and jumping around like a bunny, hoping I’ll run around the yard with him.  Uh-huh, I think not.  Especially, at 6:30am.  So, in anticipation of school starting soon, and knowing full well that continuing the annoying dog-and-post routine to my daily schedule will, undoubtedly, put me over the edge, I decided to eliminate the post problem… with fencing.

I had some white painted fencing that I used as headboards in a guest room a while ago, but no longer use.  I figured I could use the fencing to circumvent the dog’s shenanigans.  Then I realized I would need additional sections.  So we got what we needed and got to work.  I like it.  Can you see the old white “headboard” fencing on the right side?









My sweet son and I worked on some of the fence together.  He loved pounding nails, especially.  It was a blast to do it together.  We made sure to use the level when mounting the 1x2s with galvanized “curly-q-y” decking nails.   









Here’s a helpful trick:  when hammering in your posts, use a nail to separate them.  See the nail?  That-a-way each post is evenly spaced and there is also a little room for any future expansion of the wood.


                                 Note to self:  get a pedi.


So, here is the backside:

Dog:  your fun has been spoiled  (insert maniacal laugh here)!  That lousy hound has had his game cut short.  He is going to be very upset.

And the front: 








I guess I will have to paint the fence white to match the old fence headboards, but I really like the natural look.  But as one of our friendly neighbor boys said, “It will look good white.  It will bring out the color of your house.”  😉

Oh, my.  See that pitiful patchy grass?  The dog is responsible for that too.

On a happy note, may I just say that I LOVE my $15 circular saw?!  I do.  And I can’t wait for my next project.


The boy’s bedroom redo

The boy’s boring bedroom- Before:

And the boy’s brilliant bedroom- After:

Oh my, this was a super fun makeover!   Please disregard the blurriness above the bulletin board- I blurred the wooden letters that spell out the boy’s name.

We started with this:

Back story~  Not too long ago, the boy moved to the guest bedroom because it was a bit roomier than his bedroom.  Given its new occupant, it was time to change out the floral valance and paint over the yellow, white and cream sponge painting technique on the walls.  Okay, maybe it was time to cover the sponge painting anyway, right?

It was time to update the bedroom for my preteen boy!  First, the boy chose his colors: key lime green and bright aqua.  Key lime?  Bright aqua!  Seriously?!  Yup, and with orange and red accents, please.  That’s what he wanted and, after gentle steering toward more sedate colors proved unsuccessful, that’s what he got.

Before he went to camp for a week, he helped pack up his room for the upcoming redo.  We decided it would be fun for me to do the make-over “as a surprise.”  He had picked the paint colors, but we planned that I would redo his room while he was gone, and then when he returned from camp we would have our own HGTV moment with a reveal!

See the desk?  Oh, my.  What was I thinking when I originally painted that thing?!  But, sweetly, the boy said he liked it Just the way it is (he was definitely trying to save me some work, sweet boy), but it got a well-deserved make-over too.

Aside~  At the same time I was getting ready to do his bedroom, I did his bathroom.  See the several swaths of more calming colors I tried to decide to use on the wall in there?  Look at two  posts previous to this one to see how that make-over turned out.

The preteen helped get everything in his bedroom moved, the heaviest pieces of furniture were placed in the center of the room.  See the wooden bird hanging from the ceiling in the top right of the picture below?  It became a bird of a different color.

When I started cutting in the new colors they virtually vibrated on the walls.  The key lime and turquoise colors made me afraid.  Very afraid.

Closet close to finished:  the big brown dog approved.

The boy thought a basketball hoop at the end of his bed on his bedroom wall was a great idea.  Me?  Not so much.    But it is his room so…

This old plastic indoor Koosh basketball hoop was a Goodwill find for only $1.50.  I primed it, painted the center rim shot area with silver and red paint, and then added colorful paper I already had on hand.  I used the same paper to cover the light switch (notice that during the reveal photos, later).  After, covering it, out came the Mod Podge to seal everything. I turned the basketball hoop inside out so that the word “Koosh” that was splattered all over it would be less obtrusive, and I also made the bottom opening larger to accommodate a bigger ball, trimming it in coordinating orange bias tape to finish it off.

Ready for a bank shot!

Here’s a shot of that bird of a different color!  I love how it turned out.  I offers a very fun punch of color! The bird was a wooden puzzle the boy’s grandma gave him to work on one day as they waited for me at a doctor’s appointment.  It was lovely natural but I think it is WOW painted orange.  🙂

The  abstract artwork on the orange wire shelf, made by the boy in art at school and framed in a $2 frame from Goodwill, is now proudly hung on the turquoise wall.

Allow me to interrupt this  boy’s bedroom make-over to bring you a Helpful Hint: Clean up as you go!  But if you plan to use the same brushes and roller for the same colors later, or even the next day, and you don’t want to wash and rinse out your brushes, simply wrap them separately in plastic wrap.  That little trick works great!

And now on with the room~

There on the bookshelf headboard is the raggedy old stuffed cat my son has slept with since he was a baby.  That cat used to be big and fluffy.  Now it is sunken and all but bald from being petted and well-loved (I even made it a fur suit to cover its pitiful nakedness.)  On either side of it are black woven baskets from the Dollar Store ($2/each), which I wove in some orange bias tape and turquoise cord– they are rather hard to see in the photo, however.

Notice the desk has been painted?  And the old Herman Miller orange plastic chair I pulled out of a garbage dumpster years ago- free!  To the left of the bulletin board is my son’s name in large black wooden letters, running vertically, which I blurred out.  The photo on the right was taken after he got all his stuff “organized” on the desk.

The turquoise color on the side of the desk is the same paint as the turquoise wall color.  It is not nearly as bright as it appears to be in the photo.

We already had the Kandinsky print in the lower level but I thought it would bring so many of the bedroom colors together so I hauled it upstairs  The print and colorful paper lanterns strung across the valance mirror each other and work well together.

I still need to make the bed skirt, which will be made out of the same material as the valance and have a two-inch border at the bottom of orange fabric (the  same fabric with which I covered the spray painted orange lamp).

I seriously worked the full week while he was at camp, getting the bedroom and bathroom finished.  On the day he returned, we had the reveal!  It was ALL worth it!

I think he likes his new room!

The painting he is holding is of his dog, which I painted in the colors of his room.  Fun!

Home sweet home.

The Boy’s Bathroom

I’ve been very busy in the last week redoing the boy’s bathroom and bedroom.  His bathroom really, really, reeeallly needed an update.  Someone’s little fingers had pulled at the seams of the seashell wallpaper and ocean beach scene border, so it had certainly seen better days.  A few days before the boy went to camp for a week, I gathered a wallpaper scoring tool, a water bottle to use to saturate the paper, a scraper, and a large sponge and started in…  D and I removed shelves and baseboard trim that needed to be revarnished.  Then I scored the paper with the tool.  See the little holes it leaves?  You need to be careful not to apply too much pressure or you will end up leaving holes in the drywall.

Next, we used a water bottle to saturate the paper really well, hoping it would be a cinch to remove since I had sized the walls before papering but, still, it was very slow going.  The shelves we removed were white, ran the length of the walls above the toilet and far counter, and were mounted above the border on the two far walls (sorry, no pictures, because once I decide to do something I usually jump in and tackle it, neglecting to get Before pics.) The “sky” above the old border is not paper it was painted to match the sky in the top of the border.  I had painted it above the border, up the walls, onto the ceiling, and into the skylight shaft when I first did the bathroom.  I thought this bathroom was mighty cute in its day, with its nod to Florida but, alas, it was time for it to go, go, go.  And after hours and hours of stripping and washing walls, the paper was finally gone and it was time to paint.  First, the ceiling went bright white!  

It felt fresh and bright and I was pleased to see the transformation.  Before I painted, I wondered whether or not to leave the skylight shaft painted like the sky or paint it white like the ceiling.  I ended up painting it out to match the ceiling and LOVED the result.  After, the REAL sky was the main star.



Isn’t the patch of blue sky pretty?




It was a little sputter and start to get the wall color nailed down.  But after two trips to the paint store and several choices, finally, a color was found that matched the crazy laminate.

After spackling holes and sanding, and spackling and sanding some more, the cutting in began. 








Hey, notice the gigantic ’90s builder-grade mirror?  Keep an eye on it because after the painting is complete it is going to change… for less than $20!  Yes!

But before we see the fun and cool After photos, let me tell you about the trouble I found.  Hang on people, it’s scary.  What is that in the photo, you ask.  It’s a disgusting mess, that’s what it is!  It is peeling vinyl flooring with black mold underneath.  It is right next to the tub.  Water causes black mold, folks.  Killer. Black. Mold.  Yikes! 

So I pulled off the baseboard, which needed to be restained and varnished anyway, and sprayed it with straight bleach.  I was pleased to see the mold “die” and I cleaned it up really, really well.  Then I pulled out all the old grout from in front of the tub.  After letting the floor dry for a good day-and-a-half, I hot glued the vinyl back down (gotta love the hot glue gun!) and regrouted along the tub.  To be proactive in not allowing the water to run out of the tub and cause the same problem again, I bought Spraymaid Bathtub Splash Guards to install on each end of the tub.

To further spruce up the newly-painted bathroom, I also bought a new toilet seat and lid with stainless steel hardware, and a new stainless handle since the original plastic handle had discolored and looked guh–ross!  The new seat and handle were both very easy to install and only needed a screwdriver and pliers.

Remember that builder grade mirror?  Well, people, with two lengths of pretty trim (approximately $6/each) and four on-sale ($1.39/each) medallions I picked up from Lowes, (painted front and back with some left over white paint), I transformed the look of the mirror into something soooo much better.  I used a small level to make sure the medallions were level on the corners of the mirror and hot glued them in place.  I made sure to not get the glue too close to the outside edges because the backside perimeter is reflected in the mirror (hence the reason I painted the backside).  Next, I measured twice three times before cutting my first strip of molding with a small hacksaw.  I cut from the frontside of the molding to the back, in case there might be any splintering of the wood.  Luckily, it was a great fit.  I sanded the edge a bit to smooth out the cut. Then I did it again… I did the same for all the sides and ended up with a spruced up mirror.  Love it!

Before                                                     After   (Benjamin Moore- Truffle: AF-130)

When he returned from camp, the long-legged boy loved his “new” bathroom.  In fact, he wanted to take a bath in his bathtub (surprising, because on the rare occasions he takes a bath it is always in my big master bathroom tub).  We got rid of all his old bath toys at the recent garage sale so I noticed he used Legos to play with in the tub.  After his bath, I found this on the counter~

His Legos, spread out on the towel to dry.  As a mom, it is little everyday scenes like this one that warm my heart.

Look for the boy’s bedroom redo post, coming soon

and it continues… book purging

So, I am stiillll going through every room purging stuff, getting ready for the garage/yard (threatening-to-spill-over-into-the-neighbors’-yards) sale that will happen… sometime this summer- sheesh!  And there was one area I had a very hard time downsizing: our books. Our books!  Our lovely books.

I agree with Edan Lepucki that our books tell a story about us.  Our books tell our values, interests, and life journey.  Like Edan, when I go into someone’s home, I am always drawn to their bookshelves and linger there, taking in the occupants’ story through the choice of their books.  After all, books on a bookshelf tell us a story, beyond the words printed on the pages between its covers.

I didn’t think I could ruthlessly part with our books, our story.  But I did.

Because… there might just be such a thing as too many books.  Yes, our books told our story (from college texts to my son’s board books).  But the majority of our books usually sat on shelves gathering dust.  Wouldn’t our books better serve someone else who would like to read a few?  Wouldn’t our books be better off moving on, circulating, offering someone else:  a quiet rainy afternoon’s enjoyment;  information or instruction; or a tome to add to their drafty bookshelf?  I thought, Yes.  So, it began.

I started a bit slowly but soon got in a zone and started tossing book after book after book onto the floor, from the to-the-ceiling bookshelves.  I ended up with five piles:

  • The largest (hundreds of books!) pile was for the garage sale; after which, they will be donated to a local charitable thrift store.
  • One small pile was recycling (the book pages were falling out or the books were damaged beyond simple repair)– we will recycle the paper.
  • Another pile was for books to take to school for my students.  I purposely tried to keep this pile manageable and smaller.
  • One tidy pile of four books belong to others- I looked in the front cover of a couple books that I was unsure when or where I got them and found I had borrowed them.  They are ready to be returned to the rightful owner.
  • One last pile of three books will be mailed to two of my students.  I believe the students would particularly appreciate owning them.  I will mail the books this summer as a special surprise for them.

After I finished purging and the knee-deep piles of books were hauled out to the crowded garage, pile after pile after pile, and the bookshelves were cleaned and the remaining books were dusted and rearranged a bit, my son said, “Wow, it looks empty in here.”  It did.  And it felt more than fine, it felt good.

While it is true the books on our bookshelves tell our personal story, remind us of our journey, and show others we value reading and learning, for me it was time to let them go.  I still value reading, learning, and growing, but I no longer have decades of floor to ceiling books packing shelves which tell my story.  And it is okay.

So I’ll leave you with this~  LOVE!  The good folks at the Iowa City Public Library purge books too.  Here is an inspired way they recycled some of their children’s books:

The Library playhouse is child-size, of course, and built by Nathan Nissen, a University of Iowa Civil Engineering graduate student at the time.  After, it was finished, it was painted by artist Deanne Wortman and her son, Eric Wortman.

Garage Sale

Okay, so I really, really, reeeeally need to have a garage (which will definitely spill-out-into-the-yard) sale.  For the last couple of weeks, between doing this & that I have been going through closets, drawers, storage rooms, cabinets, cubbies, and nooks and crannies, throwing into the garage anything and everything I don’t find beautiful, needed, or used in the last year.  Believe me, the garage is filling up.  Fast.

There are several sites that moved me on the path to purging possessions~ some thought-provoking and profound, others practical, and many helpful and fun.

And I still have a long way to go.  It feels rather endless, actually, so I may just need to start this garage sale soon, whether I have gone through every tiny little item or not.  I am SO ready to see it all GO.  But I still need to organize it, clean or spruce up some stuff, price it, place ads, etc.

Okay, here’s my ulterior motive for posting the picture here… sharing the picture might be the impetus I need to get it done and ready by this weekend.  Also, my son is concerned the neighbors might start to think we’re hoarders.

“Our lives are frittered away by detail … simplify, simplify”  ~Henry David Thoreau

light switch cover

This was a very boooooring light switch cover in my kitchen.  And while I don’t really have a problem with unadorned light switch covers, I just so happened to be browsing through a Stampington & Company magazine one recent day and…  Ah-ha!  I saw a sweet page that I thought was dear.  It showed a heart (soooo close to the golden-hued color of my kitchen walls) with the words “happiness is homemade” in script in the heart.  It also had a knife and fork– perfect for a kitchen, I thought!  Well, I went about my normal day-to-day… but then went back to that magazine page.  I tore it out and put it on the island.  Then I looked again at that boooooring light switch cover.  Hmmmm….  I had an idea.                                              I know you’re with me.

Here is the artwork.  I’d like to give credit to the artist, but in my haste to create I didn’t think to look for the information.  If anyone recognizes the artist, please tell me so I may take my hat off to her/him and give credit where credit is due.  As you can see, the print I wanted to use was part of a fourth of a page.  It was a little too large for the switch cover so I improvised.  First, I cut off the knife, which when you think about it was quite appropriate 😉 hee-hee, and then I trimmed the print to size.  I glued the knife across the bottom of the print.  I also made sure my light switch cover was nice and clean beforehand… no smudges, dirt, or kid’s fingermarks.

I slathered Modge Podge all over the plate.  I made sure to get the backside too, especially under the paper flaps because there wasn’t a lot of overhang.

Notice I wrapped my paint brush in plastic wrap between the three coats?  That way there was no need to rinse out my brush between coats.  That little trick works great to keep the brush moist and ready to go between coats.  Try it when you are painting your walls too.  Works great!

And here it is (excuse the glare):Cute, right?  By the way, the top screw on the switch matched the heart almost perfectly!  I used a little liquid correction fluid (Wite Out™) to “paint” the bottom screw so that the color better matched the color of the paper.



So, what do you think?

homemade ping pong table

When your child wants a ping pong table… and you price them and think, Uh, not sure about that! what do you do?

You make one! 

First, get a big ol’ folding table that has been used and abused from your garage.  Ours had been used to do crafts, spray paint on, host birthday party treats (covered by a cloth, of course!) and to hold wood to saw.  Yeah, it was beat up.    Yikes is right!  I sanded and wood-filled a gazillion dips and dents and dings…              and sanded again.  And primed.                               and sanded…  and primed again…

After letting the primer seal for a couple days, it was time to paint.  The boy picked out the colors for his ping pong table.  Who’s to say one must have a traditional green with white stripes ping pong table?  Oh, no sir, not here!    Notice the winter jacket?  This was done over Spring Break and, I’ll tell you, here in the Great White North it was still mighty chilly and damp.  That might be why it took a few days for the tackiness of the paint to seal up, given it was below 50˚.  After the orange base was done (it took about three coats) and nice and dry, it was time to tape off the perimeter for the trim paint (forest green).  We used BIG paper lawn bags our dear neighbors left us when they moved last summer (sooo miss them!) to completely cover the inside area.       The perimeter took a few coats too.  The boy (and very scary-looking dog next to him with eyes shining bright) liked the progress being made!  Both were starting to see lots of ping pong fun in their future!  After it was dry, I decided we needed a stripe down the center too, so I added one.  After which, I sprayed the whole thing with a clear acrylic spray sealer.                                                                          

The net was ordered from Amazon, but we got the paddles (50¢ each) and a few balls from Goodwill.  True, the table is more narrow and a bit shorter than a regulation table but the boy and the neighborhood kids think it’s nifty… and it’s ORANGE!

Total cost?  Well, I had to buy the net, some paint, and the accessories, so I’d say, probably around $20-25?  Not bad.

But, moreover, it was a super fun project to do with my dear son.