Jr.’s Dresser

I have a kid who’s room often looks like the closet threw up clothes all over the room. There is no other explanation of how the floor can be clean in the morning and by early evening it looks like a disaster.

The other day he counted and discovered he owns 84 t-shirts, well no wonder the room looks like it does, who can keep 84 t-shirts folded and neat? (Just so you don’t judge me too harshly…I didn’t buy all those t-shirts. Many of them were freebies but 84 feels like hoarding!)

He didn’t even have a dresser to keep them (or anything else) in. So, we went to Craig’s list to find a cheap one.

This is what we found:

the dresser - beforeI knew I was going to paint it so I didn’t have too high of standards. I did fork out $50 which was probably high but I couldn’t live with the laundry explosion state of his room much longer.

I decided to try another project with spray paint.

I discovered a few downsides to spray painting this project:

1. Spray Paint projects have to be done outside. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem but this summer North Carolina is very similar to a rain forest so any project outside seems to be interrupted by the rain. So, I spent about twice as long expected on this.,

2. Spray Paint on this veneer resulted in a soft finish which meant it was easy to scuff the surface.

3. While Spray Paint comes in a lot of colors, it doesn’t come in every color so I had to go with what was closest rather than having regular paint matched.

4. I am not very good at spray painting. I didn’t wait long enough between coats. I sprayed too fast, too close and too heavily. I should have watched more Youtube videos and taken my time.

The upside:

1. Spray painting is kind of fun.

2. This was just cheap veneer on part of the dresser so I don’t even know what I would have had to do to prepare the surface for regular paint.

So, the finished project looks like this:

The dresser - afterFor the Braves logo I used my Silhouette cutter, blew the A up and cut it out in pieces then put it on the drawers like this:???????????????????????????????

There was some overspray on the drawers and I am still thinking about cutting the A out in red vinyl and putting it over that A but right now Jr. likes it and there are quite a few less t-shirts laying around his room, so I guess mission accomplished.

So here it is before/after:


Categories: Vinyl | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Categories: Tools | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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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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!

Categories: Tools | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Categories: Tools, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment


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!

Categories: Tools, Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment

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.

Categories: Tools, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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