What’s Next?

The week leading up to any trip I take is so focused I wish I could bottle it for later. I’m usually running around like crazy but the house ends up super clean, bags are packed (although I totally left my workout pants at home this trip. boo.), fridge is cleared out of mystery food and the yard looks amazing.

There’s no time for projects because I’m usually cleaning up from the last three.

Case in point, before leaving for a week in Canada I was still putting away bits and pieces from the door frames, scraps from finishing the laminate floors and transition pieces and even some finishing pieces I bought for the new potting bench. Little stuff gets finished too like fixing the curtains in the kitchen which are always coming off the hanging wire because I yank them too hard and putting the DVDs I’ve watched back into a case.

I scrubbed the bathtub, people. That never happens.

But then, once I get home and empty my suitcase, throw a load into the washer and start to enjoy the clean and organized house I’ve returned to the bad side of my brain acts up. The side that says “let’s get out the sander and go to town on those door frames” and “I bet you could paint the fireplace in a day, max!”

It’s chaos being in my head all the time and yet, I have a dozen projects I want to start. Nevermind that I have another dozen and a half projects to blog about as I’m tracking here.

So I’m using the quiet time this morning to sketch out plans for the garden which is in desperate need of some trellises, thinking about how to sand and stain the dresser in the living room, trying to determine the shape for my new headboard, glaring at the door frames which are still unfinished and wondering if it’ll take a long time to tear out a patio.

As far as what’s next around here, it’s anybody’s guess but I might need to bribe myself in order to finish up the baseboards and trim work before busting out a new project…

Spoiler Alert: I painted the fireplace. And I love it.

Cords are part of life. Deal with it.

One of the odd things about the internet in general, and Pinterest in particular, is that it makes us envious of things we didn’t know we needed and embarrassed about things we weren’t insecure about before.

Of course I mean those 6-pack abs and people who design beautiful cakes and traveling to exotic locales. But if there’s one thing no one should be ashamed about and try to “resolve” in their life it’s cords.

I get it, every magazine would make you believe that things run on magic and unplugging is so hot these days. And yet my computer is surrounded by cords. I’m hard wired into my DSL line because it means my webinar connection won’t go out mid-call. My external monitor has a connector and while I now use a USB hub it’s full up with my mouse, keyboard, printer, scanner, cooling pad, SD card reader and speakers. I need these things to function. If I had to haul my printer out of the closet every time I needed to print it would be a hassle.

Yes, I know I can buy a wireless mouse and keyboard but I hate replacing batteries which tend to die at very critical junctures in my work flow.

So I’ve got some cords on my desk. Even *gasp* a lamp. And I’m cool with that.

What I really needed was more desktop space because having a ginormous desk isn’t enough for me.

I inherited this desk from my grandma and it’s in decent shape:

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But when I replaced the floors I was thinking about how I could install a shelf in the corner of the room for my printer. The next day when I was scoping out some wood panels at Home Depot I found 2 gems. I already shared about my awesome cork board here. But I also found this MDF shelf covered in a laminate for $5. It measures 2’x4′ and I brought home 3 because I immediately knew what I would be able to create.

Instead of a mounted shelf I made piece 1 the top, piece 2 the back and piece 3 the supports. By cutting piece 3 into 3 sections it provided a ton of stability and was installed in a way so only the pretty side faced out.

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I predrilled the holes and used 1-1/2″ screws to secure it all together. The support pieces were cut a bit short so I could add felt feet to keep the wood from scratching my desktop.

The back piece also got cutouts for cords with my jigsaw. At first I cut them too small so I needed to widen the holes to fit everything through and then sanded it down a bit.

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Look how much I can fit on and under this shelf now:

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One of my favorite things is that with the new USB hub I can have lots of things plugged in at the ready and it makes work much more productive.

Now, the rest of the room is still under construction here and there, especially going through ALL of my paperwork to determine what needs to be kept, shredded, recycled and scanned.

Now that is the real menace of current homes: the paper. I swear it multiplies. But anyway, as I continue to battle my paper piles and get things organized in the new office space, I will not hate on the cords. These cords bring me internet and power and light and music and I will not banish them for the sake of vanity or Pinterest.

A bench for pots

So even though I’ve been working along quite steadily on all the projects I forgot to blog about (complete list here) and finished the laminate/hardwood floors indoors, I decided I needed another project. Because I’m crazy, that’s why.

This little patch of dirt was my nemesis – always messy, plants that never stay alive and a sprinkler head that didn’t work.

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So I cleared it out, the rocks were tossed into the plot of dirt around the tree, the plants pulled out and the dirt smoothed over. I wore gloves because I have a healthy fear of spiders in dark places. ALSO I found a very old wasp nest in this corner hiding behind the living room window frame. I blasted it to pieces from afar with the hose set to jet.

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With the idea to install a beefy, sturdy, kickass potting bench here, on Thursday night I was off to Home Depot for supplies.

By the way, totally off topic but, I’ve been trying something new when I go shopping for lumber or tools. I will change all of my clothes to appear less “girly” (not that I dress all that feminine when I’m working on a project but no dresses, sandals, etc.) to see if shopping in work clothes makes a difference. I’ve been quite annoyed lately at either being completely ignored, disregarded or condescended to while shopping. Considering how much I spend and how often I shop at Home Depot, it gets frustrating real quick.

Anywho, back to Thursday night. I picked up all of the lumber I needed for a new potting bench and had them cut the 4×4 redwood posts in 2 pieces 3′ and 5′. Although the plans I’m using (here if you’re interested) called for 36′ posts all around I decided to make the back one taller for a shelf.

Friday afternoon I started working on the cuts and my stroke of genius to relocate the miter saw to the front porch was only mitigated by the fact it was 104 degrees. I wisely went to the movies earlier in the afternoon when it was a hellish 108.

Also, since I picked up another power drill, I set one up with the drill bit and a second with the screw piece so I could switch back and forth without resetting the bits. Unfortunately the batteries for the drill were d.e.a.d. so I got as much done before they both needed a charge.

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Saturday morning I went outside early and finished up the cuts, screws and nailing before 10am – totally forgetting my breakfast in the kitchen. The dogs were having a tussle so I put them in time out and was able to work really quickly after that. I did need to do a jigsaw cut on the last 1×6 to notch it around the back posts but after working on the floors those cuts are cake.

One thing I did make time for is sanding down the edges of the boards which splintered a bit after being trimmed to fit. Mostly because I suffered a few nasty splinters and don’t want that trend to continue. Here’s how it looked all finished and moved into place:

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There’s no much new to share, the tutorial I used is pretty accurate. My only change was using 2″ nails from my automatic nail gun instead of screws on the top boards. I figure that if I need to replace those for any reason the smaller nails are easier to remove. Also, it was faster.

It would be easier to assemble with two people, if only because holding up the wood straight + screwing it in when your drill battery is dying can be trying. It’s light enough for me to move a couple feet on my own (not unlike an empty dresser would be awkward but not overly heavy) but if I decided to move it into the garage or elsewhere I might need 2 more hands. Or wheels. I could totally install casters and then it would be easy as pie.

I used 1-1/2″ long deck screws in gray for the posts and for the most part they went in easy enough.

I measured and designed this to go right under the garden window off the kitchen and while I love this window in theory it is a pain in the ass to reach, clean and keep stocked. I love having plants in there but there’s no way to reach them in the back. Also, it’s drafty.

So soon that window will be replaced (soon is a relative term) and then I’ll use the taller posts in the back as supports for a shelf.

I had a lot of fun loading this up, mostly with things that have been all over the front porch or garage in recent weeks and all the plants I’ve been repotting indoors. I’m so glad that I can get my hands dirty without getting the whole kitchen a mess.

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On the shelf below I have a bunch of succulents that are currently in the process of deciding if they’re going to live or die, a crate I stained and then threw some pillows in, a fishbowl full of fish tank rocks and a metal tub with various garden tools.

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I may still clear off the bench and paint it with Thompson’s Water Seal – I have enough leftover from the raised garden bed project and it’s just sitting in the garage. Speaking of the garage, I have a ton of empty pots on a shelf out there that will likely migrate outside soon enough. It’s not my intention to keep all the potted plants here so they’ll slowly make their way back into the house or around the yard.

I’ve also ordered some vintage valve handles for holding things on the sides of the bench and can’t wait to get those installed!

Until then I’ve rolled out the outdoor rug and am really looking forward to making the most of this space for once.

Waking the house

It’s late when I started to write this, as I’ve not tackled enough paper this week to make even the slightest dent in my paperless project. Over the past couple weeks I’ve been taking note of my habits and one of them is what I like to call (inside my head) waking the house.

It starts in the early morning when I’m newly awake and still trying to get my bearings. Most mornings that means getting some nutrients and lots of water before my morning workout at the gym, finding some appropriate clothes to wear and kicking the dogs out of bed to eat their own breakfast.

And it’s with an almost sadistic glee that I open up the curtains in my room, tying them together in the middle with an old scarf as Wilson tries unsuccessfully to burrow under the covers. Some mornings I get a flashback to my dad throwing open my own curtains to prompt me out of bed for school.

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Once I’m in the kitchen, sipping on my morning protein shake and trying to clean up the inevitable disaster I’ve left from the day before, I’ll open the curtains in the kitchen. These are some of my favorite – sewn and installed by myself – they glide effortlessly and let in so much morning light.

Before heading off to the gym I’ll inevitably stop in the office, sinking into the overstuffed chair I love and taking down a few words in my journal or looking over email on the laptop. The light comes in, even when the shades are low, and warm this seat before the world is truly awake.

So that’s what I’ve been considering. My ritual. Waking the house by opening the doors and windows, allowing light and fresh air to come in. Watering the plants and trying not to kill them with over watering. Feeding the dogs then shooing them outside to sniff and bark at cats and get a little sun.

And I think of this again in the evening, usually hours after the sun has set when I begin to close the house down again. The curtains get tugged back into place, the scarf thrown over the curtain rod for tomorrow. Lights are extinguished and I dim the track light in the living room as the hour grows later. Tonight I lit a candle on the mantle, letting the scent fill up the small room, even as I moved a fan to blow directly on me (hey, it’s 80 degrees at 9pm. summer is here).

As the day comes to a close the dogs inevitably run out of steam, collapsing in a pile of limbs and tired sighs wherever they happen to land. Most nights I carry one of the littles off to their crates where they get a final nighttime treat. I close the curtains on the master closet, signaling it’s time to go to sleep and, after setting my alarm, the house goes to bed.

(True story, just as I finished writing this Wilson wandered in from the bedroom and whined at me. Apparently it’s past my bedtime.)

Touching up the Desk

In the midst of planning to do the floors in the office I had a few other projects in mind. The first was my desk, specifically the feet which are metal with a brass finish. And very, very dirty.

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I started by rubbing them with brasso and then cleaning it off with a rag. Which didn’t help all that much. So next I used sandpaper to get off some of the rust and turned to my old friend spray paint. I picked up this one from Amazon from Krylon – it’s called gold leaf and I first tapped off the 6 feet to prevent overspray. Although the bottoms of each leg has a felt pad like this one, I wanted to keep the legs looking nice.

I wrapped the top of the foot in painters tape and then a scrap piece of paper.

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Here’s how they look after a few passes with the spray paint:

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I was debating also painting the drawer handles but I don’t mind that they’re silver though I might change them at some point. For now I’m glad to have those feet glammed up for under $10!

Framing doors

One of the bigger projects I’d envisioned for this house is upgrading some of the basic finishes. For example, spray painting my interior door knobs with ORB gave them a cool contrast against my white doors. But I hated the flimsy door frames made out of 1-1/2″ wood. It was pretty simple, just mitered corners and nothing special.

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So when I installed the new master bedroom floors I took out the frames, pulling the wood back with my crowbar and removing the nails. This wood was pretty splintered so it went right into the trash.

I waited until the floors were installed in each space before adding the new frame so it would sit nicely on the laminate, I started with 3.5″ common boards from Home Depot. If you’re doing this project first measure the height of the door frame and add a couple inches if you’re doing a miter cut. Mine needed to be 81″ tall in most cases so I went with the 10′ long boards for $4.06/ea.

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Keep in mind that if you’re doing this project that most of the wood will be way too cracked, curved or filled with knots to work. I recommend going midweek because the stock gets pretty picked over on the weekends.

While the individual door frame wasn’t too expensive, I had a lot of them to replace – 6 doors going room-to-room and 2 doors leading outside. And each door has the frame on both sides. What made this a little easier was that I’d already framed out the door in the garage leading into the house and don’t need to frame the outside of the front door. And I opted to skip the new trim on the interior master bath door because I’d just finished that trim and inside the hall closet because no one will see it.

Even with a 3.5″ board, some of the door frames were too close to an adjacent wall to fit. So I took the boards out to cut them down on my new table saw. After cutting the boards to width, I measured and cut them to height to reach the top of the frame, but before installing the side boards I hit them with the orbital sander, smoothing the rough edges (because I’m clumsy) and giving the ends a quick polish. Lining up the boards I used the Airstrike to install them with 1.5-2″ finishing nails.

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Have I mentioned yet today how much I love this tool? It’s super light so you can easily use it one handed and quick but the biggest bonus is that you don’t need an air compressor which is both loud and expensive, not to mention heavy. #win

So with the side frames nailed in it was time to devise the top. While I like a mitered cut, I wanted something fancier. So I chose to use another 3.5″ board trimmed out with stop moulding which is thinner and rounded on the corners.

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The bottom piece is this 1.25″ pine stop which you can find at Home Depot here for $6.06/ea for a strip 84″ long.

The top piece is 1.375″ redwood which you can find here at HD. Keep in mind that each of these boards are long enough for several doors and the length used varies on the door size and frame.

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I assembled each top piece in the living room to make sure it was lined up well and then nailed it to the top of the frame. As you can see I made the stops 1″ longer than the frame on each side, except when it was too close to the wall.

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I love how fancy these look, very craftsman style and a lot more stylish than the old frames!

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The next step is to caulk the seams, cover the nail holes with wood filler, sand it once more and paint white. I’ve also been sanding down the corners because they hurt when you run into them.

So here’s my handy dandy checklist of doors to finish:

  1. Master bedroom to master bath – framed, needs finishing
  2. Master bedroom to hallway – framed, needs finishing
  3. Hallway to closet – framed, needs finishing
  4. Hallway to guest bath- framed, needs finishing
  5. Guest bath to hallway – not yet demoed
  6. Hallway to office – framing started
  7. Office to hallway – framing started
  8. Hallway to guest room – framing started
  9. Guest room to hallway – demoed
  10. Living room to front yard- framed, needs finishing
  11. Living room to garage – framing started

Project: Reduce Paper Piles

I’ll admit it. I’m a prolific piler of papers. I might also be a hoarder when it comes to saving things “just in case” because for a single woman with zero offspring I still have way too much paper. I remind myself that I have 2 vehicles, a house and a business, but whatever.

Since my ultimate goal right now is to get as close to paperless as humanly possible I am launching a new personal challenge to reduce the paper in my life. Permanently.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Attempt to reduce items of paper by 500 a month until manageable

2. Refine my current paper intake system to reduce piles

3. Start where I am right now, without waiting for ALL the paper to be gathered or the perfect system in place

4. Each piece of paper counts as 1, whether it’s an instruction manual or a ticket stub

5. Paper will be recycled and, if needed, shredded

6. Papers that must be kept will be scanned and saved, then backed up on the external hard drive

7. Journals count but first priority are the piles and files

8. Deal with each paper in front of you right now, don’t delay it for later

For now the office is going to be ground zero for organizing – too often I move everything to the living room for more space and then end up moving it back in slightly smaller stacks.

I’m not quite sure how I’ll keep count yet but I want to just get started. In addition to statements, notifications in the mail, receipts, business paperwork and notes, I am also going to look at operation manuals, cards, magazines, coupons, old stories and journals.

As often as possible I’ll do a Friday update with a running total on this post. Let’s see if I can hit 500 papers in 2 weeks!

June 5, 2015: 140 papers eliminated