New Knobs

I’m loving the Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint, it’s covering the old door knobs smoothly and making them beautiful again! Again, the door knobs were working fine mechanically but were a tarnished gold that just wasn’t nice enough. Add in old owners who got paint on all the hardware and it was time for an updated look.

First step is to remove the handle using a phillips head screwdriver. Be careful of the inner mechanisms that are sometimes oiled.

Then use a small flat head screw driver to scrape off paint you can see here on the handle.

I rubbed each down with a bit of sandpaper to get rid of the last vestiges of paint.

Once the pieces are clean I set them up outside on a piece of cardboard, using the pieces to push through the cardboard:

Then using the spray paint I pass over each piece, about 8″ away, covering with a thin coat of paint. Just keep the spray can moving, even if you end up getting more paint on the cardboard. If you apply the paint too heavily it starts to run, ruining the smooth look.

A great tip from Young House Love was to poke the screws through the cardboard so they get painted as well.

I’ve also removed the strike plates and painted those. It typically takes 3-4 coats to cover the entire handle as I move it around to make sure each side is covered evenly. Be sure to move the locking mechanism back and forth between coats.

The result is so dark and sparkly and pretty:

and it takes just a few minutes to reinstall (see how the screws blend in so nicely?):

and line up the screws to reassemble the handles:

Next up is replacing the door hinges (eek!) so they match. The first can of ORB is still half full so this entire project has so far cost just $7.50, much cheaper than replacing the hardware with new.

Hurricanes, Earthquakes & Tornados

With the East Coast flipping out this weekend with the arrival of Irene I thought I’d throw up my thoughts on frugal ways to prepare for emergencies.

First, chill out. Unless you’re in the path of Katrina, the plot of Twister or sitting on a fault line there is likely to be minimal disruption.  Be aware, check the news and calm down already. Panic helps no one.

Second, cover the basics. If you’re in the dark for a week without TiVo or angry birds on your iPhone you’ll still survive with food and water. So start there.

Over the next month make it a point to pick up 2 gallons of water each time you go to the grocery store. They run about $1 each and won’t be too difficult to transport if you buy a few at a time. Try to assemble 1 gallon per person and pet each day. So for a 5 day supply I keep 20 gallons of water for me and the dogs.

Actually I only have 10 gallons in the garage for emergencies, but add in volume from the water bottles, juice in the fridge, a case of water outside, a few quarts in the car and the fact that I could fill up the bathtub if I had some advanced notice it all evens out.

You can empty and refill these water containers every 6 months (use the old water to hydrate plants so you’re not wasting) and experts suggest NOT using old milk cartons. It’s really hard to get those clean enough for water so you’re not growing something nasty inside the carton. Just buy them, $1 a gallon is pretty affordable.


Food is a lot easier, I do keep a large shelf stable stock on hand. You don’t need to spend thousands on prepared packages – simply look at what you have on hand and consider if you can survive for a week.

Maybe it won’t be 5 course meals or even hot meals but you can certainly survive on peanut butter, crackers, canned fruit and stale Halloween candy if you needed to.

Some food of course you’ll want to heat up and if you run out of fresh water you’ll want to boil it to cleanse. End of summer is a great time to pick up a camp stove and propane on sale or find one used at the thrift store. Even though you might be nearly done with your grill for the summer, refill the propane tank or pick up some more charcoal to have on hand.

Plan for light. Know where your flashlights are and check the batteries, make sure you have some spare batteries or use a hand cranked flashlight. Personally I prefer candles and can light up the main rooms when the power is out.

Pro tip: put candles in front of a mirror to reflect more light back into the room.

If you have children candles may not be safe but they’re important to keep on hand in case your flash light batteries die. Whether or not you keep them for decoration you can pick up candles really cheap. Every thrift store I’ve visited has a stock of half burned or slightly misshapen candles for pennies, which are easy enough to pick up for your emergency stock.

Don’t forget to throw in matches or a lighter. The after Christmas sales are a good time to pick up nicer lighters pretty cheap.

If power is out and the weather is cool, you’ll want to keep warm inside. Pull out your sleeping bags, add blankets to the beds and bunker down in front of the fireplace. A lot can be accomplished with layers so wear a sweater, hat and warm socks until the heat returns.

Third, lean to be self sufficient. Start with small medical needs and keeping your prescriptions up to date and in stock. I like to store my meds in two water safe containers so if I need to leave they’re portable. Know how to bandage wounds, treat cuts, use OTC medications and know when something is serious enough to call for help.

Remember, if your power is out you won’t be checking google for advice and if your phone is out you can’t call a charge nurse. Learn these things now, especially if you have children, and make a guide you can reference in any circumstance.

Fourth, have some things to do that don’t require electricity. Keep your cell phone off to conserve the battery, don’t drain your computer battery in the first few hours by updating Facebook every 3 minutes.

It may seem like a vacation to have some time at home to catch up and at first glance I would think of getting a lot accomplished.

Shred those old papers. Oh, the shredder needs electricity.

Dust around the house and vacuum all those hidden corners. Oh, I’d need more light and power for the vacuum.

Scan family photos. Oh, the scanner and computer need electricity.

Finally beat MarioKart, clear out the TiVo or accomplish a Harry Potter movie marathon. Oh wait…

So consider things that don’t need power like reading, puzzles, board games, card games, coloring or writing.

Fifth, have a way to communicate. With the growing use of social sites this can be incredibly simple. Find a friend outside of the affected zone and check in with them via text once a day. Try to keep the time consistent and ask that friend to post updates on your Facebook page for all friends. Of course if Grandma isn’t on Facebook and prone to worry you may want to call or have family reassure her you’re okay.

Phone lines may be jammed and should be kept clear for true emergencies so only use your cell phone if you have a true emergency and need help. Until everything gets back to normal just chill out, stay at home and listen to the news updates.

Of course in order to listen to the news you’ll want a battery powered radio and as we move further into digital life with cell phones acting as alarm clocks, music streaming online there’s very little need for a single function battery powered radio anymore. Except if you need to evacuate and don’t know what roads are flooded, where the storm is headed and if the worst is over – you’ll need a radio.

Pick one up pretty cheap at a camping store like REI or outfitter shop like Big 5. Worst case scenario you’ll burn some gas and wear down your car battery listening for updates in your car. But if you want to stay safely inside without being cut off from the world just buy a simple radio.

Shiny New Knobs

As I continue to paint the doors around the house I’ve found more mini projects to do! One such project is cleaning and updating the door hardware.

I’ve shown before that the previous owners had a ‘slap it on’ philosophy with paint so nearly all of the door hinges, knobs, and strike plates have paint on them. Sometimes several layers worth.

In addition the hinges and door knobs are this gold brassy color which I don’t really appreciate. I checked out replacing them and it’s not too expensive, maybe $3-4 for the hinges, $1 for new strike plates and $15-40 for knobs, depending on how fancy you get.

The problem is, I really like the design of my door knobs inside the house:

They’re somewhat uniquely styled without being weird. Definitely an upgrade from the boring round door handles. So the solution, I think, is to upgrade them with some spray paint. Normally I’d think such an idea was madness but a recent redo at Young House Love showed me that it was doable.

So in true Sherry form I’ve picked up a $7 can of paint + primer spray paint in Oil Rubbed Bronze and I’ll be prettying up those brassy gold door knobs.

But first I need to create room outside for the paint and so I must finish scrubbing down all the shelves from the new to me fridge I got last week. I think soaking in water, bleach and baking soda for 9 days is long enough, don’t you? Of course I heard all the horror stories that the plastic will be weakened but to me it’s better than having lingering mold. And if the plastic breaks down in 100 years instead of 150 it’s all good to me. I’ll be dead.

Once I’ve made the space I have to decide how to start removing the door knobs. I’d rather not give the dogs full access to any room they can nudge the door open and I’m sure those using my bathroom would appreciate the privacy.

Luckily I took off the door to my office soon after I moved in (during an ill fated attempt to move in my desk. Eventually Dad arrived, disassembled the desk and did the moving for me. The door never went back up.) so I can use that hardware to get started.

I’m thinking it should go like this:

  • spray paint extra set, give it several coats and a day to cure
  • remove knob from bedroom door, touch up paint on the door and let it dry
  • replace door knob and striker
  • start spray painting knob removed from bedroom door
  • continue until all are done

If I move this way through the doors then I’ll never have doors that can’t be closed and I can use the opportunity while the door knob is removed to do final touch ups on the door paint.

The last concern is the hinges because while I can pry off a door, no problem, I really suck at hanging them up again. When I did these cabinets in the bathroom it took me forever to get them up again and these weigh a lot less than a full frame door.

If I can find replacement door hinges in the same color as the new knobs I can probably spend the $3/door to get new ones. If not I’ll just use my spares, spray paint them and replace ’em one at a time so the door does not come completely unhinged.

With the first set of door knobs underway I’m looking forward to seeing how these look on the doors!


Migrating Mushroom Mother….

While the grocery store mushrooms are acceptable, I have a deep and abiding hatred for all fungus growing on my property. While they’ve been restricted to the front yard in the past, recently the fungus has traveled.

I’ve said so before here, here, here and here (incidentally one of my favorite post titles ever, Die Fungus Die).

I hate those mushrooms.

And now they’re invading my backyard! I think the problem was when I moved these walkway stones over and leveled out the dirt last summer:

Yes this is level, makes you wonder how bad the unlevel walkway was before.

I believe that when moving these stones, I used a trowel that had fungus spores on it. Let’s just stop there, shall we? Are there any other words put together that bring up a more disgusting image?

fungus spores.


Okay, carrying on. At first I saw little colonies growing in the cracks and crevices. No biggie, scoop ’em out and dump them in the toter.

But them I saw something a little more disturbing.

What do you mean you don’t see it? You only see slightly dead grass? Look closer.

Can you see it now?

For the past few weeks I’ve been finding hidden mushrooms. They’re uglier, denser and like little rotten golf balls of fungus hiding under my grass, just barely out of sight. Usually you have to lift up the grass to see it:

Disgusting right?

Because these little gross golf balls are hard to find I’ve been spending a little time each morning looking under the grass to find these suckers and throw them in the green waste trash toter.

Every morning.

Which is why I was so surprised to look out this morning and find the suckers were reproducing again:

Little crop of disgusting suckers growing overnight? Gross but okay.

This colony finding some wet dirt and shade along my walkway? Understandable and still nasty.

But this? This I cannot handle:

OVERNIGHT people. Yesterday? Nothin’. Today? Infestation.

And it even looks a little like Cloud City poking up from the otherwise perfectly fine grass to create a fungus filled skyline:

Solutions? I’ve got scarce few. Anything that kills the mushrooms would also kill my grass. I dig ’em out but need to find a way to clean off my tools so nasty spores don’t travel. And try as I might the earth will NOT tilt just a little so that corner of my yard gets sunlight and I’m not willing to trim off my roof.

Instead I’ll reduce the backyard watering, keep scouring for fungus and protesting when I have to scoop them out of my otherwise pristine, perfect, decent looking yard.

Making Soap & Home Cleaners

Another Pinterest inspired project for ya today. I have a ton of bar soap and, being stubborn like I am, don’t like using it. Instead of buying more liquid hand and body soap I’ve started converting bar soap into liquid soap.

I started by gathering supplies, jars for the soap, an empty hand pump, lots of bar soap, glycerin and a grater.

There is still a lot of commercial hand soap in case I run out but it’s going to be a long time before that happens and here’s why:

The Recipe

  • 1-cup grated soap flakes
  • 10-cups water
  • 1-tbs glycerin

Each bar of soap yields about 4 cups of soap flakes which means each of those 20 bars of soap will make about 40 cups of liquid soap. Over 800 cups total if I never buy another bar of soap again.

Here I’ve set up the jars for the liquid soap with a funnel which makes it much easier to pour.

The instructions are simple:

  1. Shave the soap bars, collect in a jar
  2. Melt 1 cup of soap flakes into 10 cups of water
  3. Stir in 1 tbs glycerin
  4. Let flakes dissolve, stirring the pot on low heat
  5. When soap is cool pour it into containers

It’s that simple. And since you just made soap you’ll need to just rinse out the pot really well and that’s it.

As you can see one cup makes quite a lot of soap. I found this empty soap pump at Wal-Mart for a few dollars but you can easily save the ones you have and refill.

Some people get fancy and spray paint theirs but I’m low tech here. When I empty my last jar I’ll start thinking about doing another batch and while it cooled this time I shaved another bar of soap so I’ll be able to skip that step next time.

Then I decided to make my own cleaners for surfaces around the house.

I’m almost done using the commercial cleaners that I inherited from Grandma’s house when she moved to assisted living (which was summer 2007) – 4 years without buying much in the way of cleaning supplies isn’t too bad!

Today I picked up these spray bottles from Wal-Mart for $1 each and picked up my natural cleaning ingredients:

  • white vinegar
  • baking soda
  • rubbing alcohol
  • ammonia
  • bleach

I made both a window spray and a general cleaning spray, I’ve got wood polish already.

Since my drains have been slow to, well, drain, I also used the baking soda, vinegar, boiling water trick to clear them out. All of the recipes came from my friend Melissa who is known as the fount of all knowledge and posts her recipes and secrets on her site here.

I’ve got dozens of rags too so I rarely have to spend money on cleaning supplies. It’s not so much the money (although some of those cleaners are ridiculously expensive) but actually realizing I’m out of something, going to the store, buying it and dragging it home. Such a hassle, that shopping.

The ammonia, bleach, baking soda and rubbing alcohol will last me for quite awhile. I do need to pick up more vinegar but couldn’t find it in a gallon container today. It’s going on the shopping list for next time.

Pretty easy to make and will last quite awhile so this project won’t need to be repeated for many months – just the type of thing I like to do to feel accomplished!

Painting Doors

I’ve been trying to paint doors throughout the house and had a few requests for tips. So here we go.

First, gather your supplies:

  • Drop Cloth
  • Paint
  • Paint tray
  • Stir Stick
  • Green tape
  • Small roller
  • Paint brush
  • Pour spout
  • Paint can opener & brush holder

Those last two are optional but really help when you want to put paint in the tray without making a mess and keep your brush clean.

Best idea is to open the door and lay down the drop cloth to catch any drips. Use the painters tape to cover the hinges and door handle:

I always use a cleaner to wipe down the door, most of the time TSP is best for walls but if you’re out wet a cloth and wipe down the area to be painted.

At this point you may want to sequester any animals in another room as every time I paint my dogs end up with white noses and streaks in their fur. I use a baby gate in the hallway so they can see me but not touch the wet paint.

Next, you’ll want to use the roller to do a first, thin coat over the entire door:

It might seem thick, but once the paint dries and you add a second coat you’ll see how well it covers:

Make sure it dries completely between coats! I typically work on 3 doors at once so I can prevent the paint in the tray from drying up and wait for the first door to dry. It’s worse if it’s mostly dry, or tacky, because the paint will not cover evenly.

If you’ve covered the brackets with painters tape you can do the inside as well (you can see in this pic the last owners just slapped paint everywhere and didn’t know how to paint):

Just run your roller down the inside here up to the brackets – usually two thin coats will be fine.

If you’re like me and have half painted brackets and door knobs I’ve found the best way to deal with it is using a flat head screwdriver to scrape off the paint.

When you have 2 coats of paint on the door, remove the painters tape while the paint is still wet. If paint is on the tape and dries, when the tape is removed the paint will peel off of the door as well. But if you pull off the tape while the paint is wet it will create a clean line. And if any remains on the bracket or door knob you can scrape it off later.

And that’s it! In a few hours you can go from this:

to this:

I probably have one more coat to do on this door because I found a few places where the paint is uneven.

Decisions Decisions

Later this summer I’ll be traveling to Florida for the first time and I’ve spent a lot of my rare free time looking for the best things to do while in the Sunshine State.

For reference, I’ll be in a small region from Fort Lauderdale to Key West so no Walt Disney World, panhandle or Everglades for me.

What I’m NOT doing

  • boating
  • snorkeling
  • diving
  • swimming with animals

and for a few reasons. I’ve never been snorkeling or scuba diving so while it is something I want to try I don’t wish to spent a lot of money and time getting training so I can enjoy it for a short period. Plus I’m a land lovin’ girl. The dolphin places sound really cool but I’m not really with a group that would enjoy it. So, next time perhaps. Also, $110 for 25 minutes?

What I am considering seeing:

  • Earnest Hemingway’s house
  • Private garden tours
  • the sea turtle rescue place
  • Butterfly World
  • Lighthouses, palm trees, beaches on the keys

Basically places where I can tour around casually, take lots of photos and soak in some culture of the region. The only one that has me seriously considering no on that list is the Butterfly World. Why? Because it’s $25! I could go at the front or end of my trip and I know I’d spend 2-3 hours photographing inside. And I love symmetry more than I probably should.

I saw two exhibits on my trip back East in March, one in Washington D.C and another in New York and I got some great photos (at least I love them):

So now I’m trying to decide if $22 for 3 hours is a good trade if I can get more great photos (I found an online coupon for $3 off but still.. expensive!).

What do you think? Do you put money into your hobby? I figure the cost is comparable to watching 2 movies in the theater.

And, if you’ve been to this part of Florida or the Butterfly World, what should I see? What should I skip (besides hurricanes)?