The Hoop House

Sometime in July my mom said she thought we should have a real hoop house this year.

**By ‘real’ she meant something to replace the one we had last year which was sufficient for our first year but was only about three feet high in the middle so she had to raise the end and crawl in to water or otherwise tend to the plants.


The dish is to show scale, the old hoop house was about half as high as the dish.

This is North Carolina so when she brought up the project in July I knew I had months until we actually had to do anything about it.

“Suuuure,” I said, “we can do that.”

Well before I knew it the end of October was upon us and the hoop house loomed over my head, so to speak.

The plans looked easy enough, they were from MaryJanesFarm Magazine.IMG_1632 They advertised making the project for under $200.

Challenge accepted!

We can do it for $100, I secretly thought. I didn’t tell mom what I was thinking, I didn’t want her to think I was cheap or something.
(That’s a laugh, we live in the same house, of course she knows how cheap I am. She also knows I am a saver, both of which will come in handy for this project, your welcome very much!)

It’s called a hoop house because the structure is largely supported by PVC pipes– bent into half circles or hoops.

We started out with a visit to our local Lowe’s store –it’s almost within walking distance, big selling point when we bought the house 15 years ago!

We bought the stuff on the list minus a few big things. Their plans called for cattle fencing for the heart of the structure. Well, in our climate we will get little, if any, snow and the same for wind so we decided to skip the fencing (there’s a significant savings). We also had a few supplies laying around the yard. When I say laying, that’s what I mean. I’m not proud of it. but that’s what it is.

We started by pounding our 18 inch re-bar in the ground at regular intervals.


Mom pounded…someone had to take the pictures!

Once the re-bar was in, we looped 16 ft PVC poles into the re-bar. (FYI, at Lowe’s the PVC only came in 10 ft sections. we could order 20 ft but had to buy it 200 at a time. We opted for 10 ft and we had six foot poles from last year’s hoop house that we saved and joints from a project I had about five years ago. True, I could have thrown away the joints years ago but then we would have to buy them this year. See, being a hoarder, saver, comes in handy.


You can barely see a pile of PVC on the right side of this picture, that’s where we salvaged our 6ft pieces from.

Once we had all our PVC in I built the door. There were no actual directions on how to build the door and the frame, just pictures.

It didn’t look all that hard…but I don’t exactly have a work area, so I did the best I could in the garage and put it together. We put the plastic from last year on the door and were ready to go.


1. the door 2. the door jam under the door in the crowded garage helping put the plastic on the door.

The door attached to the front hoop with zip ties.


1. We pulled the plastic end to end 2. Then we conferred on how to attach the ends 3. Finally we attached the ends with Gorilla Tape.

 Mom’s sisters came for the weekend so we put them to work helping put the plastic over the PVC and attached it to the two end poles with Gorilla Tape. Have you used that yet? That stuff is sticky!! We say, let the winds blow, that plastic isn’t going anywhere. We also used 6 mil plastic, as opposed to the 4 mil we used last year. The  6 mil is really sturdy we think we can use it again next year, er, as long as we can get the Gorilla tape off it.

Next we put the ends up which were attached to the plastic that covered the house (more Gorilla tape).


The finished product

We ran one 10 ft PVC pole above the poles as a spine to better support the entire thing. You can see it below. We used the cement blocks to secure the end and are ready for a frost!

The view from inside

The view from inside

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New Shelves

About 85% of my work week is spent at this desk.


It has been a long road to be able to work this much from home, but man, do I love it!

I have had some great workmates over the years but this guy might take the cake! Literally, if I don’t watch him, he’ll sneak food from me.IMG_0030

Anyway…I had a storage problem above my desk. This is what the space was like:


Which is a little ridiculous because if I turn my chair 180 degrees I have all these shelves.


But I wanted shelves over my desk. (I am too lazy to get up walk 5 feet to get my thesaurus).

Well, I looked around at Target and Lowe’s and even went down (which means 2 hours to Charlotte) to Ikea thinking I’d find the thing. But I didn’t. Part of the problem is that it is a 24 inch space, most pre-made shelves are wider than that.

So, I perused Ana White’s site and found: easy book shevles

It was actually called Easy Bookshelves, it was a sign! Doesn’t look too hard, right?

I like Lowe’s because they’ll even cut the boards, and I can practically walk there from my house.


My sophisticated re-fashioned plans.

I adjusted the plans to accommodate my more narrow space but when I got to Lowe’s and did the math again, I realized if I had only three shelves, I could get away with one less board.

Well, I’m nothin’ if not cheap, so I decided to just go with three shelves and I would adjust appropriately when I put it together.

So, I got to work,

The plans had a little decorative cut on the top of the shelves. In theory I knew that could be done with a jig saw but I wasn’t so sure, I gave it a try though by free handing a little wavy shape thing-y on the top of the boards. Once I cut the first one I just laid the 2nd board on top of it and kind of traced it with the saw (about as hokey as it sounds but not terrible).


I few things:

1. I drilled pilot holes for each of the holes I would need because I have split plenty of boards (learned that the hard way).

2. I don’t have a workbench (well, I do but it is always occupied with other stuff, like lawn equipment, but that is another blog entry) so work wherever there is room.

3. I used a T-square and a level to make sure it was level enough to at least not let everything slide to one side.

This is how it turned out:before-after-shelves

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The Master Bath

I told we were going to get to work in 2013. The first big project is redoing this:

To see the bathroom in all it's decrepit glory, click on this picture.

To see the bathroom in all it’s decrepit glory, click on this picture.

Into…well, something else. So, one Tuesday morning in January, I dropped my husband off at the airport, went directly home and started peeling wallpaper off the wall. I didn’t really plan it until I was actually driving home from the airport and it occurred to me I could probably get it all down while he was gone.

I did get the paper down by the time he returned. Well, most of it. As it turned out there were three layers. I discovered that bathroom was papered rather than painted because there was plenty to cover up on those walls.  There was so much paste and the bottom layer left once I got the paper off, but it did look like it was starting to get somewhere.

His first question when he got home was, “What did you have in mind?”

Uh, what did I have in mind?

What kind of question is that?

I had getting all three layers of wall paper off the wall in four days, that’s what I had in mind.

Getting to my tool…spray-bottle1

yup it’s a spray bottle. A drop or two of dish detergent and water. Spray it on the wallpaper you want to remove, walk away for 8-10 minutes (watched paper doesn’t peel). When you return the saturated paper will peel off like sunburned skin!

peeling-wallpaperYou can see where all the layers didn’t come off at once…but that is no fault of the spray bottle…it is the fault of this crazy paper with the layers.

The next wallpaper removing tool I love just as much is my dough scraper. Yup, it’s the same thing I scrape dough off my counters with. (you’ve seen dough on this blog!) Only in this  application, I scrape wallpaper:

100_0927The paper comes right off when the water has had time to saturate.

Next thing you know you’ll go from this:

to this:peeled

Full disclosure: this job is a pain in the #$% no matter what tool you use. It is tedious but quite rewarding when it’s done.

So, once I had the paper off it was time to decide what I really did have in mind. Before I started I did start a Pinterest Board which proved to be quite a bit of help. I guess that’s what is so cool about Pinterest.

I kind of felt sorry for my husband having to live in that overly-girly bathroom for the last 14 years so I thought I’d go less girly. I was aiming for a lodge-y feel.

Next up: finishing the job.

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Front Door Vinyl

My Silhouette cutter is a great tool!

You just have to go on Pinterest to find TONS of ways to use a cutter.

A few people have suggested I make money with it, you know, cut images and throw them up on Etsy.

I always respond in my best Harry Connick, Jr.  voice – not really but I do quote him when I hear this suggestion — so imagine it,

“You’re talking about the American Dream. You find something you love then you twist it. You torture it; trying to find a way to make money at it. You spend a lifetime doing that. And at the end, you can’t find a trace of what you started out loving.”

That is so true, so my silhouette remains a source of my own entertainment, that’s all.

So, why is it a cool tool?

It has no limits, I can use any font, it will trace images from jpgs, pngs, gifs, etc. Actually, the only limitation I have found so far is my own knowledge.


Get it? It’s a font joke.

I already blogged about my laptop skin. I have moved on since then and created a different skin.

But the latest project came from seeing this:family name

Cool Right?

I wanted that in my house. But when I typed out my name with that font I realized that wasn’t at all me. The longer I thought about it the more I decided it was like picking a font for my house and that was the wrong one. (See, working for a Graphic Designer for the last two years has rubbed off)!

So I came up with this:

Here it is up close: front-door2

Eventually I landed on Birmingham for the font, and Bergamot for the doo-dad.

So, there you have it, just another reason why my Silhouette vinyl cutter is a cool tool.

Categories: Tools, Vinyl | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

My own Lap Top skin

I have been thinking about how many ways I can list my vinyl cutter as a tool to blog about my projects. I really just need the blog post to host my pictures and project details to show off what the fun I am having with my Silhouette SD cutter.

I’d been thinking about my own design for my lap top. The thing is, I am not a designer. So, I pretty much had to see something I liked, then re-create it. When I couldn’t find something I loved, I thought, what’s the difference? It’s only vinyl, I can change it as often as I like.

If you search laptop skin on Pinterest, there isn’t much there that you can make yourself.  I did a blog search and still didn’t find much of skin people had made of their own.

So I went to my freebie file — the file of word freebies I’d downloaded over the years and found this:

rpenn expressyourself_dreambig

I also had a flower from the Silhouette Site.

I cut it all out but decieded to take off the flourishes because they were too detailed to pull out of the vinyl.

I threw it all together and it turned out like this:


Now that I look at it on my post it’s a little boring, but it is better than it was before. I will keep updating as I find better designs. If you have suggestions or you’ve pimped your own laptop,  I’d love to see them.

Categories: Tools, Vinyl | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

IKEA Cutting Board

One of my favorite kitchen tools is my BIG cutting board. This thing is huge!

It’s 18 x 21 inches and has a lip on it to fit against the counter top.

One side is flat and one side has a little valley routed in it. I never use the routed side because the flat side is just so perfect.

One thing I really like using it for is cinnamon rolls.

Since this not a recipe blog, I wasn’t going to give the recipe. OK fine, to avoid your comments clamoring for the recipe and my having to reply, here are the links to the Cinnamon Rolls and Cinnabon Frosting.

My mom uses cream cheese frosting out of the tub and likes it just fine. Any frosting in the tub can be whipped up a little in your mixer or processor to make it fluffier and it goes further.

Back to my kitchen tool.

The thing about it is I would have NEVER bought it except it was $10!!  Lookey Here!

The last time my sweetie and I were perusing IKEA, I skipped the upstairs and went straight to the house goods downstairs. I was determined to spend as little as possible (but everybody knows you have to spend SOMEthing when you go to IKEA).

Anyway! I found the cutting board and thought about it for the camper. It never made it so the camper, so it’s time for another trip to IKEA!

It’s the perfect size to roll the cinnamon rolls out to:

then roll up and bake.

OK, there is one more tool you need to know about if you are gonna give these rolls a try.

Dental Floss!

Score the dough (or just eyeball it) where you are going to cut it to get 12 rolls. Then use dental floss to make the cut.

Run the floss under the dough, then cross it and pull. You’ll cut the dough to the right size without squishing it which sometimes happens when you use a knife.

Look how nicely they are cut.

Well what are you waiting for? Go get started!

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Mom & Bread

I think we could break this blog into two categories.

Tools my mom taught me to use:

And  tools my Dad taught me to use:  

Since it’s May I thought I’d tell you about the Mom category.

My mom taught me to love bread.

Kneading it, rising it, smelling it, appreciating it. I love it in all forms.

With rich, creamy Irish butter, plain peanut butter, tomato sauce and cheese, cinnamon and icing, I can make all kinds of combinations.

I can twist it, boil it and make it into a pretzel. Sometimes I roll it around in garlic butter and let it melt in my mouth.


The holes are too big but it still will taste great with peanut butter!

I went for two years in the mid-nineties without buying any bread except hot dog buns ( I could never get those quite right). I kneaded, let rise, punch down, let rise again until I had the lightest, most perfect loaves of bread you can imagine.

I’d make it, then bring the bread to my mother’s table, where we’d share the ends pieces, still steaming from the oven.

I will never forget the year mom came back from visiting my sister who had a bread machine and declared she was buying her own. What a sell out!

She quickly learned baking the bread in the machine was a serious mistake. It came out the strangest cube shape with crust so tough we couldn’t chew it.

It would, however, knead the bread and it didn’t leave a pile of flour in the kitchen to clean up.

Hmm, she might have been onto something.

Yup, I soon  found myself mixing the ingredients in my own bread machine. I still proof the yeast before all the ingredients go in and I only let it rise one time in the machine, then I move it to whatever form I will bake it.

I am listening to my second bread machine die even as I write this. I hear the scraping and  thumping as the poor little motor- that- could is giving out. I cheer for it, encouraging one last loaf. Then another, and another.

There are lots of other tools mom taught me to use and if she didn’t directly teach me she cheered me on while I learned, googled, e-howed and you tubed myself into enough confidence to do it myself.

When the bread in my machine finishes, I will roll it into a loaf, let it rise for an hour, bake it to 190 degrees, let it set 10 minutes, roll it out of the bread pan, cut off the end, dot it with butter and bring it to mom to share with me. Because the bread machine was a great tool she introduced me to.

I hope you are lucky enough to have a mom who taught you to make, love or appreciate something as much as my mom did.

If you are, be sure to give mom a shout out today, she would probably love to hear from you.

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Our house was built during the Ford administration. The year the Vikings got to (and lost) the Superbowl — for the 3rd time. It was the same year SNL premiered. Back when Jack Nicholson was handsome (but still crazy) and I was less than 10 years old.

So, believe me when I say,  in 37 years, almost every nail in the sub floor of our house has worked it’s way loose. No kidding, some days it seems the entire upstairs squeaks.

The basics of why the floor squeaks is this:
1. the sub floor (which is often a piece of 3/4 inch plywood)  is attached to the  joists (2×4’s, 2×6’s – something like that, which run the width of the house and is the main support). The sub-floor is the surface on which the floor covering (in our case, mostly carpet) is laid.

2. the sub floor is simply nailed to the joists but over time the wood expands and contracts from temperature, heavy furniture being moved around on it, etc. and eventually, the wood is no longer tight against the joists.

3. the squeaking is the wood moving up and down on the nail. Here’s a little picture I found on the internet, with my helpful notes.

The way to solve the squeak is to fill the space between the sub floor and joist to make the sub floor tight against the floor joist again.

I have replaced the flooring in three rooms, each of which I took the opportunity to re-nail the sub floor at the squeaky places before I put the new flooring in.

75% of that is still squeak free. I should have screwed it in rather than re-nailing. Lesson learned for the next time.

I don’t plan to remove carpet anytime soon so I googled floor squeaks – surely there is a way to fix the noise. Guess what! If I have access to the sub floor from the bottom it’s a snap! I just throw a shim (a little wedg-y peice of wood) between the joist and the sub floor to make it nice and snug in there – problem solved!

Too bad I don’t have access to most of the floor – it’s mostly finished basement under the sub floor.

Finally, I came upon this clever little product:

Squeeeeek -no-more

Squeeeeek -no-more. I swear that is really the name.

The idea is you measure out from the wall 16 inches, use the pilot bit to find the joist, then at the squeaky points you drill in the screws using the three point tool which stops the screw at the right point. The screw is a break away screw so it actually breaks off under the carpet.

Cool right? Well it was. MagPie’s room was where I started. Right when she hops out of bed every morning there was a big squeaky spot. Gramma sleeps right under that spot so I thought I’d start there. We found the joist right away. Drilled the screw in, true to their word, the Squeeeeek No More didn’t leave a hole in the carpet. It broke off  right where it was supposed to. After about 20 screws we definately heard a difference.

Encouraged, I kept going. There were four more significant squeaks in that room so we got to drilling. In about 6 square feet I put 75 screws. Yup, 75.

The manufacturer suggests having weight on the spot you are drilling to make the sub floor sufficiently rest on the joist. I knelt on the spot and had at least one person stand on the spot with me to ensure good sub floor -joist contact. So far, no difference! 75 screws and except for that little spot by the bed, the squeaks remain.

I was a little discouraged so I put the drill and the Squeeeeek No More away. I think I’ll eventually use the remainder of the screws on a day when I can find someone heavier to stand on the spot. That’s the only variable I can think of that may make a difference. Besides, those 25 screws sitting in the box will call to me as an unfinished project.

So, until I pull up the remainder of the flooring and fix those squeaks at the source, there is no sneaking around our house!

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It turned out to be therapy!

Where was I? Describing how I kept busy when I lost my job last year.

Putting the whole thing together…well it didn’t take long. I spent about $4 on a couple of long bolts, washers and nuts so I could bolt the counter top to the shelf–that way I could put as much weight as needed on the desk top but it wouldn’t flip forward.

You can see the bolt in the middle of the desk. I actually used two.

Then I measured the space between the desk and the shelf on the ceiling to cut my luvered doors. I measured once, twice, no, I’m pretty sure it was three times because I really wasn’t gonna get a second chance on this. I also traced the contour of the back of the counter top so, in theory, it would fit tight.

I’d used a jigsaw before but I wasn’t sure I was using it right so I took a few minutes and watched a youtube video, or did I watch five?  There were plenty and they were really helpful. For the most part I was doing it right, but don’t ya just  love what you can learn on youtube?

I just got a cool tool to fix my squeaky floors and I found out about it on youtube. Of course there will be a blog entry on that tool. Suffice to say we’re sleeping better with the floors fixed, heck, the kids could probably sneak out of the house now, before: not a chance. Hmm, in retrospect that may have not been the best fix.

I digress!

Trimming the doors was a snap. Well, the third and fourth time, anyway. The 1st and 2nd time, I was able to hide the not-as-good-as-it-could-have-been times. I took a few pictures to show my cutting, but I decided we don’t know each other well enough for me to reveal all my mistakes.

The four doors for $5 did leave a little to be desired in the way of condition. I had to remove the rusty hardware and one end had rotted, but since I didn’t need the entire thing, I cut off what I didn’t need. Then I sanded & painted the doors.

Once it was all trimmed up, I put the put it together, attached the doors to the shelf at the ceiling and the counter tops. It all supported itself so I ended up with much sturdier construction than had anticipated.

The doors rested on the counter/desk top and supported the shelves above it.

Next I needed to build a ledge for the shelves to rest on. I decided on a one by two and a little piece of square trim like this:

After that was sanded and painted I attached it to the doors and then laid the shelves on it.

It turned out like this:

So just to recap. The two computers were back to back and they took up about half the room, plus if the work areas were messy, you could see it from the other rooms.

Now, I have a lot more of our computer room for other things and they mess of the computers is kind of hid because they are tucked away against the wall.  The best thing about the entire project is my otherwise skeptical husband doesn’t cringe when I say I am going to build something.

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Cheaper Than Therapy

I am not really sad to see 2011 end. As years go, it wasn’t that great.

Jan. 3 marks one year of when everything turned upside down. I went to work, knowing people were being laid-off that day, not really expecting it would be in my area. As it turned out, it was me and my boss. Wow! I had worked there almost 9 years. I hadn’t held a job that long – ever.  As it turned out, it wasn’t unemployment or even the new employment that I had trouble adjusting to.

I had the most trouble adjusting to the change in routine and schedule.

So, what did I do? Built something, of course.

That’s where I am going with this. I started my blog to be able to link to other blogs that show the cool stuff people build. I haven’t actually done that yet. Linked to other blogs. But I think it’s time to show how I worked through the funk of being unemployed.

It started with a box. I got the plans on, made a few adjustments to fit my space,  turned it on it’s side and built this shelf:

The shelf was built before I was laid off…but then I read this post by Missy at My Cottage Charm: and knew there was more work to do!

I showed it to my husband who didn’t believe I could build it but said, “Sure, you can make it, when you get a job.”


Get a job?

If I had a job, I wouldn’t have time to build anything! By this time we were at about the 2nd week of January and I was visiting my vacation home — in the lovely state of Denial!

So, we negotiated that if I could keep it under $25 I could build it.

I had an idea of using louvered doors to make the sides. After wasting my time on Craig’s List — I have already talked about this, after they finally contact you back and get the particulars, either the item is gone or it’s really not what you wanted. I ended up at my friendly, local Habitat Re-Use Store.

I found just the doors I was looking for:

and it was only:

at the Habitat Re Use Store. I also bought desk tops:

2 blue laminate desk tops for $5 each. This one had a little chip on the corner, but that was OK because it had to be trimmed to fit in the space anyway.

I already had two bookshelves that I would use as the base for each shelf, so now it was time to put it together.

I had two matching bookshelves that I actually got for free several years ago. This was gonna be a great use for them!

I will put that in my Next Post!

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