Category Archives: Do It Yerself

TV Wall

I love our casita.

Being its owner is third on my list of Life’s Joys.  But it, like everything else, is not perfect.  One of her main imperfections is the low amount light that the living room gets from morning until mid afternoon.  The upstairs bedrooms get great morning light, but downstairs takes most of the day to wake up.  That’s her main imperfection.

Her secondary imperfection is an awkwardly configured living room.

(My main imperfection is listing imperfections.)

Both of these architectural foibles have been felt most severely by the north-eastern wall of the living room.  It is furthest away from the bright dining area windows, and meets the fireplace wall at an angle.  It tended to always feel like it was looming.  The Lurking Wall.  It needed something to brighten it up without making it feel cluttered.  So this is what we did:

Wood do you think?

Wood do you think?

The wood slats do not solve the problem of light in the living room, but they do brighten the space and give a person’s eye something to study.  My vision for this wall is a gallery of framed art along with the tv – off center to the right as part of the gallery wall.  And over the fireplace – more framed art!  The Old Man’s vision also includes an abundance of art, adds a guitar, but puts the tv (and speakers) above the fireplace.  A lively debate between The Old Man and me about the very important television placement detail is what made this wall happen on a late afternoon last Saturday.
We have decided to compromise by moving the tv back and forth from one wall to the other until one of us relents / sees the benefit of the other’s vision.  As we are both very opinionated on the subject, I imagine we will be switching back and forth for a while.

Inspiration for having a non-tv centric living space:

Seen at

Seen at

Seen at

Seen at

This photo above is particularly great. Did you even notice the framed tv screen at the bottom right of the gallery?  No?  Me neither.

Now imagine with me…

Our current living room situation.

Our current living room situation.

… art over the fireplace, the tv mounted on the slatted wall (wires hidden behind the wood), a guitar hanging within an arm’s reach, and a modern mantle.  Not a bad vision, right?  A work in progress, anyway.  Eventually a different rug (I love this rug, but this room needs something less busy that can go a day without being vacuumed for dog hair), different shades on the windows, a chair that will fit two but not block the window too much, a sofa with a lower profile, some other coffee table, the list goes on!  I think I would like to paint the entertainment center, too.  Especially once we figure out what we are doing about the mantle, there is going to be a whole lot of wood happening in here, and a bright colored slap of paint might be just the thing.  And white walls!  I am usually not a fan of totally white walls, but I really think it will help brighten the place.  Gosh, this picture looks cluttered.  I’ll see if The Old Man is amenable to putting doors on the entertainment center.  And the more I look at it, the more sure I am that the black chair has got to go.

Hey!  Want a before picture?

The blank slate.  (And the awful fireplace)

The blank slate. (And the awful fireplace)

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Hipster Handbag DIY

You have probably noticed how hipsters can take old, uglyassshit and make it totally sexy.  Ref:  discarded huge reading glasses worn with confidence, howling wolf sweaters improved with strategic tailoring and the addition of fringe, florescent colors used sparsely paired with neutrals, et cetera.

And my old, uglyass handbag

Totally ugly, very practical, and generally excellent handbag of mine, I adore thee.  But damn.


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Dyed of Natural Causes

Hanging out with kids gives childless adults a good excuse to get crafty.  This weekend, I had lots of time with my littlest sister and even-littler brother, and in order to take full advantage of kid time, I made it a priority to come up with an Easter project.

Enter natural egg dyes:

I remember enjoying the result of egg dyeing adventures of my childhood… but I don’t seem to remember the actual process of dyeing them.  Hopefully, as Littlest Sis grows up, the sweet aroma of boiling cabbage, hardboiled eggs, and onion skins will bring a wash of memories (if not nausea) over her.

Red cabbage, which is actually purple, produces blue dye. Color confusion!

To achieve this remarkable blue, we chopped and boiled a head of red cabbage in 3 or 4 inches of water for a good 20 minutes.  Strained it, added a couple glugs of white vinegar, added hard boiled eggs, and left it in the refrigerator overnight.  For orange, we did the same as above, only substituted skins from a couple yellow onions for the cabbage.  For a mottled grey-brown (which I had expected to be pinkish-grey), we emptied a bottle of cheap red wine along with some white vinegar into a bowl and added eggs.  I wonder if vinegar is necessary for the wine dye… a weird curdled-looking film gathered on the eggs dyed in wine, and I think it may have been the addition of the vinegar that caused this.

As an egg dye, I give wine a two thumbs meh. Although I love the way this particular flower turned out.

For the super-awesome shell-tattoos, we “borrowed” a pair of my Not So Little Sister’s stockings, some flowers and confetti, and string.  We placed the flower / confetti against the undyed egg, put the egg in the stocking (after cutting the stocking so it will stretched tight around the egg), and tied it off.  The stockinged egg went into the dye and WA-BAM:  overnight eggshell excellence.  (Littlest sis had the great idea to try the confetti.  Way to go, smartie pants!)

The most impressive color came from the unassuming yellow onion skins.  Who knew yellow = orange?

Cuteness overload. This is Littlest Sis and Even-Littler Bro. Awww!

Craft-time success!

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Compst Bin

Welcome to 2012!

So far, in this household, this year has had a Make Better theme.  For instance, The Ole’ Husband is quitting smoking and joining a gym.  I am currently going through our refrigerator and cabinets to dump any expired thing and am deep-cleaning the house before Chinese New Year (it’s good luck to have a spotlessly clean house on Chinese New Year.  (January 23.  Get scrubbing!))  Additionally, I am making a number of changes to my health routine (details to come in a later post).  But – by far – my favorite life-improving 2012 activity occurred last Saturday when we built a compost bin!

This may not be exciting to anyone other than myself and my fellow apartmates (the other three couples who live in our apartment complex), but – OMG – we love it.

You may already be aware of the benefits of composting, but just in case you’re not, let me evangelize you.  Compost is great because:

a)  Uneaten fruits and vegetables are no longer wasted!  Ever felt guilty about not eating your peas?  Well don’t!  Because when you add them to your compost pile, they decompose over the course of several weeks and, along with whatever other vegetables you toss in there, create a magnificently rich soil perfect for gardening.  If you’ve ever tried to grow vegetables and have been unimpressed by the results – try using homemade compost – you may be pleasantly surprised at how much better produce tastes and looks when grown in it.

b)  You’ll take your trash out less often!  You will be amazed at how much more slowly your garbage can fills up when you’re tossing all fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, flower clippings, lawn trimmings, beer, wine, egg shells, et cetera into the compost.  (And seaweed!  Not that seaweed is necessarily taking up a lot of room in your trash cans, BUT it is worth mentioning that seaweed is chock full of iodine and if you’re using your compost to grow veggies, iodine is an excellent thing.  If you do compost and do collect seaweed to add, make sure you grab the fresh wet stuff to avoid salting your compost pile to death.)

c)  Composting is Nature’s way of amending soil.  Most vegetables and grains today are grown in fields whose soil has been sucked dry of natural nutrients.  Add them nutrients back in with compost!

d)  It’s fun!  And educational!  And rewarding!

Just yesterday afternoon when I arrived home from work, I walked straight to the back patio to look at our beautiful bin and it’s luscious contents.  Gazing upon such beautiful confluence of kitchen debris decomposing together is so therapeutic for me.  All this stuff that would otherwise take up space in the garbage and eventually go to utter waste in the landfill is now being turned into rich, beautiful, nutritious soil just like it was meant to!

Glorious, no?

If you do want to compost but don’t want to have to build a bin – good news! – you don’t have to!  I have seen compost bins at Costco and a hundred places on the internet (they may not be as totally adorable as ours, but they’ll get the job done).  Just make sure that whatever compost bin you buy / build will allow for air circulation.  Air circulation is key for proper decomposing and will keep the pile from stinking.  Should you like to recreate this particular Bin of Awesome in you own backyard, see below for building instructions.  If not, skip the last half of this post (because it’s boring) and VIVA 2012!

(3) 10′ 1×8 pine boards  $9/ea (+ one extra 30″ scrap which we had lying around)
(1) 6′ roll of chicken wire $9
A random 12″ length of rope from the dude at the nursery $0
Staple gun staples
(1) 10′ 1×4 pine board $5  (+ a little extra for the lid)

1/2″ Chisel
Staple gun
Speed square

To make transporting the boards easier, we had the fine folks at Home Depot cut the 10′ boards into 4 equal 30″pieces.  (If this is cheating on our “DIY” project, I don’t want to know.)  Once we got home, we began by laying ten of the twelve 1×8 boards out longways drawing a line 5/8″ long beginning at 2″ in from the short side of the board and 1″ down from the long side at all four corners (4 notches per board).  Then, we used the jigsaw to cut the sides of the notches (the 1″ down part), and employed the chisel / hammer duo to pop the little wood pieces out (Place the edge of the chisel’s blade along the 5/8″ line, keeping it at a 90 degree angle to the board, then use the hammer to whap the handle, pushing the chisel into the wood, and popping out the notch.)  The idea is to turn the boards into notched Lincoln Log logs.  We did the same for the smaller boards, but only cut down 1/2″ from the long side of the board instead of 1″, and only on one length (two notches per board).  We set the leftover two 30″ 1×8 boards aside.

As we finished cutting the notches of each board, we stacked them – Lincoln Log style – and watched them become a bin.  Two of the 1×4 lengths started the base of the bin.  From there, we added the 1×8 pieces.  Once all ten 1×8 pieces were stacked, we added the last two 1×4’s to the top.  No glue or nails required!

Then we unrolled the chicken wire and stapled it along the inside of our newly formed bin.  The more staples, the better!

So hot.

With the leftover two pieces of 1×8 (plus an extra 1×8 scrap piece, and two 1×4 scraps we had laying around), Ole’ Husb made the lid.  He used the rope to make the handle.

If you, like us,  are planning on never moving your compost bin, it is okay to leave the bin like this without further structural support since gravity is keeping this stuff together.  But, if you would like to freedom to move your bin around, you should consider nailing slats of wood (maybe 1×4’s) on the inside of the bin vertically to connect the boards to each other.  Otherwise, you’ll have a big compost-y mess and a busted bin to deal with when you try to lift it.

One important thing to note, since air is essential for compost, it is a good idea to turn your compost every so often.  We purchased a Garden Claw (see first photo) and it has already proven to be very useful and fun to use.  A simple pitchfork will do the trick, too, but the Garden Claw kicks ass (and is also useful for aerating lawns and prepping soil for planting).

A toast to compost!