Guest Blogger: 2015 MS Ride

Hi friends!

Back from studying abroad in Spain and on the saddle again, I’m prepping for the annual Bike MS New Bern ride. This will be my fifth year participating and weekly I’m riding an average of fifty miles a week with my dad, training with our team. Along with over 2,000 riders, we are continuing the fight against Multiple Sclerosis and I invite you to join it with us. As part of the New Bern ride, each cyclist must raise $300 each for the MS society, and it is friends like you that help us meet our goal.

Each donation:

  • Goes directly to the MS Society
  • Is tax deductible
  • Receives a thank-you gift from me!

Here’s the donation link

In the spirit of crowd-funding, each donation has the option of a hand-crafted piece of art from the Zargo family.


Your laptop or iPad Personalized in cool glittery (optional) initials or your message.



Personalized jewelry (or keys, or M&M’s, or nuts and bolts) bowl



Magazine coaster



A song written in your honor



Sturdy bowl made from magazine pages



Your name, initials, or a word of your choice Zentangled



A pair of hand-painted toms or vans with the design of your choice.



A cozy quilt

(Children’s and full sizes available)


For just $10, a chance to pet this little monster

image2 (1)

How exciting!

Here’s that link again

Once you donate, email me at mlzargo@ncsu.edu and let me know which you would like.

Thank you very, very much!


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So I mentioned a few posts ago that I started work on the camper. We made the list last fall but work didn’t begin in earnest until February when I started painting.  As I previously mentioned, I used an oil-based paint and we’ve only camped once but so far it is holding up well.

I did use a bonding primer which has a chalky finish so the oil-based paint grabbed the surface which is just a contact paper of sorts adhered to plywood or particle board. I researched the paint & primer early, bought the primer and  put a coat on the cabinet doors. Because I didn’t know what color, the primed doors sat in the garage almost two months. I needed to chose a color.

In order to chose a color, I had to choose the fabric for the curtains and cushion covers. I shopped for fabric locally at JoAnn’s and a few upholstery shops the variety wasn’t great and it ranged from $15 – $60 a yard. I needed 12 yards.

Enter Fabricwarehouse.com. From the day I started my camper Pinterest board I was picturing strips for the curtains and a pattern (maybe polka dots) on the cushions. Fabricwarehouse.com will send an 8 x 9” sample which is big enough to get a good idea of the quality of the fabric as well as what the pattern looks like.  The quality is really nice – I actually have done another project with another order from Fabric order from them (details still coming) and was just as happy with that fabric.

My fabric $8.89/yard. Great, right!

Anyway, once I had the curtain fabric I could move on with the paint. I chose the smallest color from the fabric and got to work. February is generally a really nice month to do outside projects in North Carolina, low humidity, warm enough to work…so I got started.



When I finally got to work on this project it really didn’t take that long. I spread it out over about three months just because I couldn’t decide on a color but it could all be done in about 4 days and that includes time for completely drying and as many coats as needed.


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How Many Projects Can a Girl Have Going at Once?

Have I ever mentioned how much I like to paint? Uh, that’s cuz I don’t! I am not that good at it and I don’t have a long enough attention span. But it seems I have got myself into way too much paint this year.

The Camper Project (more on that to come) started last fall when I discovered you don’t have to live with the boring, old wood-grain paper covered cabinets in the camper.

Huh? That can be painted over?

Well, I saw this picture online and was hooked!


Those cabinets didn’t start out red and tan and those benches weren’t plaid to begin with. For Pete’s sake, they didn’t even keep the flooring, they laid new tile!

So, I spent the dreary, cold, rainy days this winter (oh, who am I kidding this is North Carolina, for the most part, our winters are sunny and mild) anyway, I spent my non-camping season working on camper re-do.

I researched a fix for a few repairs we needed, found an upholsterer to sew up our leaking seams, picked fabric for curtains and benches, read tons of blogs about camper re-dos (and saved all the good ones HERE). I found out the best kind of paint for this project was oil based. I hadn’t smelled the smell of oil-based paint – what I consider ‘paint smell’ in years!

Working with that paint is another blog entry on it’s own!

So, here are a few pictures until I write the entire story:


Can you see the tiny stripe I used for the paint color…uh, not sure if it’s too much or not.

So while we continue to research shade possibilities (yup, I may not even end up using the fabric for curtains that I used as the inspiration for the paint!! Not sure how I am gonna tie in that aqua if I don’t make the curtains) and counter top alternatives we decided it was time to get going on a few house projects. Remember I said we had a little work to do in 2013? Well, we were pacing ourselves but have started in the kitchen.

A series of leaks (now repaired) damaged the kitchen ceiling so we decided to put up tiles. If you are going to do the ceiling and you are ever gonna paint, shouldn’t you paint first? Now it’s definitely time to replace the 40 year old counter top so shouldn’t we pick that out? Wouldn’t it be nice to have it all match? Where do we start?

Paint, I guess.

The metamorphosis of this kitchen has been on-going:



Replaced that dishwasher (twice) and that stove (the kid who had to have a store-bought birthday cake the year the stove died, cuz it happened two days before her birthday, still reminds me about that).

The wallpaper was up when we moved in (ever notice how many birthday pics take place in your kitchen? I painted the cabinets and walls for a little color.

2003 – Now


Yea, in retrospect, the yellow kind of colored every picture taken in that room. In fact, last year I bought a new camera that would adjust to the light in the room so all my pictures wouldn’t be so tinted by the yellow.

So, that’s what we did, while I wait for the samples of the camper counter to come in the mail I started painting the kitchen cabinets. I haven’t even started on the walls and I just noticed that it’s been Spring for a week, there is probably stuff to do in the yard…


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2013…we’re gonna do some stuff

2013 will be the tomorrow we put everything off to.


Let me clarify. The adage ‘why do it today when you can put it off until tomorrow ‘ is our mantra.

What, that’s not how it goes? Umm, I am pretty sure it is.

At least at our house it is.

It’s not like we mean to do just be lazy and ignore what needs to be done. 75 percent of the time it’s money. Rather than figuring out how much a project or fix will cost, we just look at it and think, “there’s no way we can afford that.”

Instead, we just take the dog for a walk.

There is a mental hurdle we always have to jump when it’s time to calculate a project budget, then we have to figure how it can be done cheaper and get to work.

When one of us says ‘you want to go camping this weekend’, the other is already starting a grocery list.  Junior needs new baseball cleats, we’re on our way to the store.

You see, this mental hurdle is only on house projects and major money expenditures (like a vacation across the country. Ask my brother, he lived in Portland for several years before I finally got there, every year thinking, it’s too much, instead of just shopping for tickets and planning the trip).


Anyway, where was I.

Oh yeah!  75% money…15 % of the problem is intimidation. We aren’t easily intimidated and either one of us are happy to find instructions for anything online but there are some projects that I let scare me because I am afraid of being that lady on DIY network that says to the camera:

“We thought it would take four months at the most. That was two years ago!”

The last 10 percent is laziness. I admit it. I’d rather read a book or blog hop than pull the wallpaper down in my bathroom.

So, to get off on the right foot we made a list of all the things we thought needed to be done. We hung it inside a kitchen cabinet door so we could access it anytime, but not on the refrigerator where it would taunt me:


We have made a tiny bit of progress and crossed off two projects, well, now that I think about it, I really didn’t do anything for either of those repairs. I was very supportive and kept calling from my laptop, “Let me know if I can help!”

But seriously, both bathrooms need some work. For example, the trim needs to be re-done in the kid’s bathroom.

See what I mean? It needs to be pulled up and wood trim needs to go there.

See what I mean? It needs to be pulled up and wood trim needs to go there.

How about this one, the piece won’t stay straight and you can see more of that plastic trim. Yuck!

So, 2013 will certainly be different, but luckily, I still have a week left.

I think I’ll take the dog for a walk.

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Tools for the Big Day

It’s been a little while since I blogged, it’s been so busy at our house! We hit warp speed by August 1st and it feels like just in the last few weeks we might be back to normal…whatever that is.

We married off Sweet Pea this fall. Folks came from all over to see her tie the knot. It was a  really sweet day…exactly what she envisioned.

And it didn’t cost us an arm and a leg! In fact, her goal was to keep it under $1000. That went out the window the first few months, but we did manage to keep it under $2k and I told her if we did that, I’d blog it.

Well, actually, I told her I’d write an article but then I have to send query letters and research who would even be interested in an article like that and let’s face it, blogging is so much easier.

So, if you are thinking about pulling off nuptials yourself, I have some tools you won’t want to be without.

Sweet Pea found a website that became her ‘Bride’s Magazine.’ 

Nope, don’t pretend you don’t know what I am talking about — we all did it. We bought more than one issue (maybe even bought a year’s subscription) even though each month was pretty much the same issue with a different bride on the cover. Remember the big dresses, even bigger hair (it was the 80’s after all, err, late 80’s! Well, pretty late 80’s. If you round up it’s late 80’s!) anyway…every issue had the department store ads for registry and this was long before Target had a registry — wasn’t that a great idea?

Getting back to the website…Offbeat Bride. This is the coolest site with the most creative people. Even if you aren’t planning a wedding, there is so much on that site that could apply to planning any party.

If you are going to have the big dress with the big hair you can still find ideas to use on this site. I should say, though, if you have ever looked through a Think Geek catalog and liked it…be prepared to spend hours on this site. You’ll know what I mean when you get there.

All the cool stuff to look at is in ‘porn’ categories. Hee Hee, don’t worry, it’s not really porn, it’s just cool ideas that you could  lose hours looking at…hmm, now I see why they call it porn. Annnnnyway, my favorite was wedding-porn/invitations.

I love the save the dates and invites.  Some people make videos and email them as save the dates/invites. Great idea!

I am not gonna lie, that site has lots of terrible ideas, too. But sorting through alot of it was half the fun.

We were both really inspired by how many ways brides found to reflect themselves. The big church ceremony/hotel reception, with the same cake as the last girl, DJ and champagne toast (I know all this because I moonlight at a hotel) is perfectly fine if that’s what you want. That just wasn’t Sweet Pea.

While the video was a cool way to go, it just so happens the mother of the bride luuuuuuuuuvs Photoshop — why haven’t I blogged about what a cool tool it is? It’s coming…eventually.

So, she looked around the web, who are we kidding, we all know it was Pinterest, which I would list as a cool wedding tool if it wasn’t such a cliché, of course everyone knows it was actually created for brides to post everything wedding-related.

Anyway, when she found a few she liked, we put them together and came up with her Save The Date & Invites.

and the invite…

 The printing would be the next tool…are you keeping track — you’re getting quite a few tools for the price of one!

VistaPrint did the SaveTheDates and SmartPress did the invites.

Let me tell you something cool about SmartPress. I uploaded the file per their instructions. During this process you have several chances too look over your item then several more chances to click “yes, I have looked this over and it’s ready to print”. When you click that, you agree it’s your fault if there is an error because you have proofed your item and it’s ready to print. I agreed and pressed the Order Prints button.

Well, the next day I get an email to call them they had a question. During the editing I had changed the colors of one of the design elements. See the circles around “Their Wedding Day” in the bottom left hand corner of the invite? Half the inside circle, not even the whole circle, was a different shade of brown and I missed it when I edited. Let me tell you, the quality control folks at SmartPress are on it! They caught my error and contacted me to see if that was, in fact, the color I wanted.  I was so impressed at their customer service because they would have printed all 150 of those things and I would have been stuck making paper airplanes out of them, nah, who are we kidding. I am way too cheap to not use them, I vacillate between perfection and frugal but frugal always wins.

Luckily, I didn’t have to make the choice because the folks at SmartPress saved me!

So, there you have it…a few tools to make the big day a little brighter.

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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 http://ana-white.com/2010/07/furniture-plans-5-cube-tower-bookshelf.html, 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: http://mycottagecharm.blogspot.com/2010/08/big-revealbuilt-ins-more.html 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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Gentle Leader

 Let me tell you about Marley.

He has his own Facebook page, which means he is really smart, he can type after all. He can fly…I’d imbed my video of him jumping something taller than he is but WordPress doesn’t support video for free,  so a picture will have to suffice:

He is 3 1/2, 80 pounds and really strong. He can drag everyone around the family and no one likes to walk him because train as we might, we can’t get him to walk nice on the leash. Sometimes he’s dragging us and sometimes we’re dragging him. Even when he was a puppy we were dragging him places:

So, the tool that turns him from wild animal to a pussy cat (not really) is the Gentle Leader. This one is wearing in some places but I love it because it’s so easy to walk him — past anywhere.

He really doesn’t mind it. He sits while I put it on him and even when something really tempting crosses his path —

He is able to be controlled. Otherwise, he’d be running all over the neighborhood dragging one of us with him.

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