Guest Room Gets Fancy

After the master bedroom, the guest room was the one with the worst carpet and I was so ready to get rid of it.  Shortly after finishing the office, I started moving furniture and got out the trusty crowbar and box cutter.

Here’s what the carpet looked with mystery stains and all:

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and in the closet,

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While the closet carpet didn’t have horrible stains, it also didn’t match the rest of the room. Of course I just finished the baseboards in there but thankfully had an easy time prying them out again.

Here’s the carpet coming out, removing all doubt that it was nasty stuff:

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Just like the other rooms, I started with filling the cracks in the subfloor.

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By this room I’d pretty much mastered removing the nails from tack strips without destroying the concrete. The carpet pad in this room was much thicker but that meant they used heavy duty glue (which you can see in that dark mark in the pic above) which I had to scrape up with the crowbar as I painted.

And, as always, there was a ton of debris so I was constantly cleaning:

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After the concrete filler dried I painted the subfloor white to block out all the stains.

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And then, once it dried, it was time to roll out the underlayment. For those who don’t know, underlayment acts as a barrier – not so much for moisture but sound – and prevents the hard back of the floor from hitting the subfloor when you walk. It’s relatively thin but does the job.

Here I pulled out a few boards that were acclimating to the room and used them to anchor the underlayment. It doesn’t get glued or adhered to the floor in any way.

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When you’re installing make sure the edge with the sticky tape is away from the wall – you’ll need that to adhere to the second piece that unrolls. Occasionally you’ll need to make cuts which is easy with the box cutter. Such as these small walls that frame the closet:

DSC_0117To get the correct length I pulled the underlayment out from that little wall, unrolled it to the far wall and held it there with the crowbar. Using a box cutter I sliced the underlayment – remember it’s thin – and then pushed it back towards the wall.

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Since you don’t lay out the whole room it’s pretty easy to work around these obstacles. I simply sliced around the wall with the box cutter to remove the section.

DSC_0125Just like the other rooms I started with a long row along the back wall and then built my way out. However, I do have a trick to show.

The first 3 rows are a real bitch because every time you tap in a board it wants to move and you want to keep a gap for expansion.

So I cut some scrap wood and nailed it to the wall just at the joints between the boards like so:

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Other than the cuts around the transition to the closet in the first row, it went smoothly!

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This was probably the first of 5 cuts I made, since it was so tight. For these straight cuts I mostly used my jigsaw but when I needed to make end cuts I relied on my miter saw.

Once the first couple of rows are in the work goes quickly. Roll out underlayment. Lay boards. Tap them into place.

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Fan set up to keep me from melting:

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And done:

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One thing I did learn by this, my third room, is that you don’t need to lay out the whole row and tap it in together. I know! It saved soooo much time. Instead you just line up the board on the far left, tap it into the board above it. Then position the next board, tap it to lay flat and when it’s almost flat you hit it hard with the mallet at the joint.

So easy. So satisfying to whack things.

Once the floor boards were mostly in I could do the transition to the hallway and this was one room where I didn’t need to stop at the door jam. Since I did transition strips at the master bedroom and office these boards could go through to the office threshold.

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While the boards don’t line up perfectly like I wish, you can’t really tell unless you’re inspecting them for imperfections.

I also took the time to touch up the wall paint with a small can of Frosted Jade from last year.

Once the floors were done I went back to re-install all those baseboards.

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The only sections I left off were around the door where the new door frame will come in (soon!).

Alright, in the saga of the master bedroom I showed you how to install the boards (the long, hard way), in the office post I laid out all the tools and now I’ve shown you the underlayment and a quick way to install.

Next we head down the hallway, do the closet and then conquer the largest space yet and a series of increasingly complicated angled cuts.

After that it’s just the transition strips and the whole house is done.

Planning an epic yard

As I was finishing up the new laminate tile floors indoors, I began to look ahead to the next project. Most of my projects take a few years of planning because I change my mind a half dozen times before making the first purchase.

The main reason that I know I need to change the front yard is this sidewalk:

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because roots from the sugar maple tree that towers over the kitchen are reaching into the foundation of the house.

Bad news.

It’s also dangerous for anyone visiting, especially in a wheelchair or walker which I recently discovered first hand. One of the things I look ahead for is making the house accessible in case we rent it out to someone with mobility issues.

The sidewalk becomes a pain when I attempt to move the full 96-gallon green waste trash can from the back yard out to the front not to mention rolling over it in the walker.

Another reason to revamp the yard is that with the California wide drought, my grass is rapidly dying and when I water 5 minutes/day it pushes my monthly water bill over $100/month. Ouch. So instead of letting it continue to die and look horrible, I’d like to create a drought resistant yard and fence off the majority of the front.

It’s not unusual in my neighborhood for the half-plexes to install a front yard fence and gate. Not only would this almost double the outdoor space for my dogs but also enable a bit more privacy.

True story, I’ve walked out my front door and been confronted by the neighbor’s dog off leash. It’s not exactly comforting.

Since work is needed I’d like to make it look awesome when it’s done.

Here’s what I’ve been daydreaming about doing…

The first major thing would be to remove the maple tree and level out the dirt in that area.

Second, extend the fence separating my yard from the neighbor’s yard another 24′ down the yard to the driveway.

I want the fence to have 2 sections, one behind a locked gate and the second open to the driveway but not visible from the street.

Here’s what the yard looks like now (in my mockup):

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And here’s how I want it to look:

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Doing this would allow me to create a small “entryway” for deliveries that would be blocked from the view of the street and measure 6′ by 6′ and I’ll probably add a small table or something.  The goal is to keep the gas and electricity meter to be outside the gate so it can be read when no one is home. On my mental to do list is another wireless doorbell for those outside the gate.

Inside the fence this would create a 4′ x 6′ alcove. I don’t want lots of grass here, probably a curved border with a few low water bushes at first like this…

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but could eventually end up like this:

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Short term I’d probably install a container garden:

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There are 5 rose bushes in the strip of garden along the garage and ideally I could move the orange roses and replant it along the new fence line.

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Additionally, these roses are in the way of the faucet so moving them means I could  turn on the water means without getting caught in the thorns.

Inside the fence, replacing the walkway is high on my priority list, I would like to move it over a couple feet so it’s less of a straight shot, still about 1 meter wide. Here’s my favorite inspiration pic for the walkway:

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Another reason to bump out the walkway from the house is so that I can install more softscapes along the house, including window boxes like these:

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Or a pergola like this one around the kitchen window:

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Speaking of window boxes, I would like to install something along the side of the house. There’s no window on the east wall of the guest room but I could add a decorative window and box like this one:

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It would be great to include an outdoor sink for gardening, probably in the front yard

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By extending the fence I’d create a lot more shade in the yard which might enable me to plant more hydrangeas. I would love this:

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but I’m sure I’ll be lucky just to get one or two growing that bloom.

As much as possible I’d love to repurpose what I have in the yard already. For one, these cinder blocks around the tree can be reused in a bench like this one:

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with the addition of four 4×4 posts. Maybe that will go in the alcove?

I’d also like to fill in this small section under the kitchen garden window with cement:

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and I want to keep the potting bench here but don’t want to add cement just yet because there’s a sprinkler buried under there.

With the tree out there will be a 10′ wide yard all the way down to the new fence and a lot more room. I’ll probably move the grill from the side yard where it’s getting buried by lantana and set up a couple of comfy chairs. Maybe a bench with storage for all my outdoor pillows.

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Gates

I really only need one 6′ tall gate at the front of the yard so to save on costs I’d probably move the current gate that goes to the side yard and move it up to the garage. But since I like the idea of being able to section off the yard, in its place I’m considering building (or buying) a shorter fence, about 4′ tall:

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I know it might seem overly complicated but it’s really nice to be able to work in part of the yard without the dogs underfoot. Especially since I’ve experienced that when I leave them inside and go garden they go a little nutty and get destructive. Last time Nixon stole my dust broom and chewed on the handle in protest.

The front front yard

Since the purpose of this whole plan is to create a nicer, private front yard, that’s where most of my plans have been so far. But from the street I don’t want it to look stark and lose all curb appeal. Outside the fence I’d like to create an area for new trees, most likely a crepe myrtle for some color.

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And ideally build a raised garden bed around 4’x6′ for the trees:

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OR

I could install a raised garden bed along the fence and forgo the tree. I’ve been reluctant to make beds high inside the fence because the dogs might use it as a launching pad to escape. You laugh but Nixon is a wily little guy.

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One thing I do know is that outside the fence I don’t want grass or mulch. My uncle installed that on his front yard and it turned the yard into a litter box for stray cats. Instead I’d surround any planters or trees with gravel or landscaping stones as such:

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The backyard

For the most part I despise the backyard, especially with so much grass dying thanks to the drought. Instead of reviving the grass I’d prefer to create more of a plan

And in the backyard I want to take out the patio in the corner which has never set up correctly:

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and replace it with a garden bed that’s level to the grass like this:

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Instead of filling it with plants I would like to use the corner to plant wisteria and sink in some posts to build a pergola or trellis:

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And lastly, I’d like to take out the garden box under the guest room window and replace this walkway with something more sturdy. There’s enough room here for a window box or umbrella and chairs.

The biggest project not yet mentioned is that I’d need to unearth, remove, plan and relay the entire sprinkler system. While the materials are usually pretty cheap it’s not an easy project to plan but if done right I’d be able to have sprinklers to the garden beds + possible tree and maybe run a pipe to the side yard for those garden beds.

I know this all seems crazy for such a small yard and looking over the plans it looks like thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours. Which makes me think “worth it?”

I think yes for a couple reasons:

1. It improves the value of the property, especially getting rid of the crooked sidewalk and tree potentially damaging the foundation.

2. The expense can be spread out over many months and the biggest expense would be labor and I can provide the bulk of that.

3. I can reuse as much material and plants as possible to make it a great yard while learning some new skills along the way.

4. Having a private front porch would be awesome for the dogs and essentially double their outdoor space.

Car vs Garage

So back in February I bought a new old car. This one:

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And one of my biggest question marks was how it was going to be stored. With the soft top I would rather have it indoors and rather not pay a monthly storage fee.

So the weekend it came home it was time to find out the truth.

Stats:

  • Car is 19′ long
  • Garage is 20′ from door to door

Yeah, this was going to be fun.

I’d been cleaning out there for awhile, moving around stuff, consolidating, giving away stuff I no longer need or use and generally making a mess.

First I worked on the Library sale wardrobe that I picked up a couple years ago. As a reminder it started off like this:

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It’s gone through several transformations over the years but at this point I have taken off all the doors, the center glass panel, painted it white, removed the back panel (which was falling apart) and filled it with paint, vases, candles, cleaning supplies and all kinds of project supplies:

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As you can see it was fitting rather easily to the right of the door going into the garage.

Except.

The car wouldn’t pull in all the way. #wompwomp

So everything came out (again) and it moved to the wall here:

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There’s still room atop the cabinet for some shelves, as soon as I repurpose that light and hang it on the ceiling. It came down from the kitchen when I installed new can lights. As you can tell I like to maximize vertical space in here.

And another look at this wall:

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I’ve continued to clean up this side, moving around some pieces but for the first week or so it worked! The car fit! But with the car pulling in so closely the screen door no longer worked as it would swing out just a few inches before hitting the car.

So I took it down but kept up the brackets in case I’d like to hang it again someday.

There’s about a foot of clearance between the front and back of the car and I’d much rather have an extra inch in the back so the garage door doesn’t hit my trunk. Which means there’s very little room around the front to walk.

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BUT I can still walk around and there’s several feet of space on either side. So much so that the doors to the car can open almost fully. 

Of course when you open the door to the garage all you see is CAR but I’m so grateful that it fits and is easily protected from the elements. Also, if I park well enough I can easily back it out past the Toyota without having to move out of the driveway.

Now, there was one little incident when I pulled in too  far and actually dented the drywall (no real damage though as I was going 2 mph) so I’ve rigged up a tennis ball on rope so I won’t pull in too far.

Overall I’m super happy that the car fits and isn’t too much of a space hog that I can work around the garage on projects!

I do have more garage updates coming, namely how I am storing wood from projects, a new window frame and what’s in all those shelves. Stay tuned.

Crash. Boom. Ow.

Do you ever charge full speed ahead into a project or week and think “I’m going to conquer the world!” only to find that life laughs and knocks you on your ass?

Welcome to my week.

I’m sharing this because I get annoyed when bloggers go quiet and then spout some line about being soooooo busy, as if no one else has responsibilities. Plus I’m going to be spending many, many hours in bed.

While I wish I had a heroic story about chasing a robber, saving puppies from the river or running a marathon to cure cancer the real way I ended up injured and bed bound is this… I opened the front door and fell on my ass.

Boom.

Just landed right on the cute outdoor rug I am so thankful protected me from more dirt, bugs and the concrete. But don’t be fooled, it wasn’t a cushion at all. Immediately both of my legs were aching and my ankles began to throb.

Here’s the closest approximation I can give you of that moment:

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Except more tears.

Realizing I would not be putting the garbage cans out to the curb as planned, I crawled, yes crawled, back indoors and made it to the living room rug before I had to lie down. I was wearing a light sweater which I threw off as I was now in pain, hot and dizzy all at once.

Not a good combo.

I continued to crawl to the kitchen where I found a bottle of water in the fridge, took a drink and passed out. Lovely.

After coming to I realized Nixon was outside barking, my alarm was going off, the phone was on my nightstand and I still couldn’t walk.

So I found an ice pack, another water bottle and some carbs in the form of a tortilla and slowly crawled back to my bed.

The rest of the day is a little fuzzy but Mom came to the rescue with more ice packs, a walker and drove me to the doctor for x-rays. Thankfully nothing is broken or fractured. Unfortunately both ankles are sprained badly and there’s also a nice little gash on the top of my right foot.

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The dogs don’t know what to do. Wilson tries to get really close and then licks the ice packs. Nixon just jumps on me as normal and Jackson gives me sad eyes and whines a lot.

We did manage to borrow some crutches, do laundry, get my grocery shopping done, cook a bunch of food for the week ahead, I went to the chiropractor to get adjusted and am loaded up with pills to manage the pain and inflammation.

Bonus: my new pimp walker (which belonged to Grandpa Truitt) fits my laptop so booyah:

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With the walker I can get in and out of the bathroom pretty well, down the hall and navigate the kitchen. The front walkway is a challenge as it’s been pushed up by tree roots but I take it slow.

All this to say that my projects are going to be slowing down since I can’t get on a ladder for several weeks and Mom moved all of my work supplies to the garage where I can’t reach them.

But I’m counting my blessings. No breaks which means quicker healing, I can now bathe myself while standing like a flamingo, the house is mostly wheelchair friendly, I have plenty of food and drink options, the internet means I am never alone and you know I have enough movies, books and music to keep me entertained for years. 

So even though this is going to be my view for the next week or more, I’m doing just fine.

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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.