For Kevin’s Birthday I got him a glass terrarium kit from Red Envelope.  It came with the container, dirt, plants & rocks needed to build a pretty little terrarium.

We enlisted Liam’s help to get it started.  First we spread a layer of rocks/gravel on the bottom of the container.  The container is not water tight so it does have to sit on something to protect the surface you put it on.


Next we added some charcoal pellets to the rocks

And then the layer of mossy stuff

After Liam stuck the spoon in the dirt and ate a tablespoon, it was time for Monkey to take his place as helper.

Dirt went in on top of the moss.

Next we unwrapped the cute little ferns & placed them randomly around in the dirt.

Monkey approved the placement.

Some lighter green moss went in around the plants.

And then a few little rocks for decoration.  We might add some people/animals to the scene at some point – like this – but for now it’s done!  Monkey approved.

It looks pretty cool as a centerpiece on our bar.  It’s been a couple months since we put it together and so far everything is still alive.

UPDATE: After another month or so – this thing is dead as a doornail!


Linked to The Style Sisters

Uncovering Hardwood

Our dining room has come a long way from the wallpaper & pink walls but the carpet in there was still bugging me.  There is just something a little icky about carpet in the dining room.  I knew we had hardwoods under the carpet (also in the playroom) but wasn’t sure what the condition of the floors was underneath all that carpet.  Here is the lovely carpet:

One corner of the carpet was loose, so I had pulled it back a few times to check out the floors and determine what kind of work would be required.  the floors seemed to be in pretty good shape in that corner so I thought we could pull up the carpet, patch any nail holes from the tack strips & install quarter round (toekick) trim.  The project seemed pretty doable so a couple weeks ago (between the snows) we dove in.

One night after Liam was in bed, we moved the furniture into the playroom and got started.

Here’s the last pic with carpet!

We pulled up the carpet starting in the corner that was already loose.  It was DUSTY!  We tried to roll it up as well as we could but that was difficult to do without scratching the walls.

Once we had it into a manageable pile/roll we just tossed it out the front door onto the sidewalk & went on to the padding.  The good news was that the padding was stapled mainly on the edges & only a couple rows down the middle of the floor.  We rolled it up in sections and threw it out the front door as well.

We were left with a pretty good looking floor…with a LOT of staples and a bunch of little sticky spots left from pieces of the padding.

The easiest way that we found to remove the staples was to gently slide a flat head screw driver under the staple to pry up one end and then remove the whole thing with pliers.

We only scraped the floor with the screw driver a couple times (oops!).  It took the 2 of us around 2 hours to remove the carpet, padding & all of the staples.  The staple holes were not noticeable so that was a big relief. We called it quits around 10:30 pm and blocked off the room so Liam & Mac wouldn’t hurt themselves on the tack strips.  Here it is at the end of work day night one.

I posted the carpet roll for free on Craigslist with the approximate measurements and had a response in under 30 minutes and a pick up in less than 2 hours.  I am glad that the carpet will go to good use for someone instead of being dumped in the landfill or paying by the pound to have it recycled.

The next day I vacuumed and then spent about 30 minutes giving the floor a good scrub with Murphy’s Oil Soap and the scrub brush end of the mop to scrub up the sticky spots left by the padding.  I was happy to find that there were only a couple big scratches in the floor and that the sticky padding spots had not stained the floor.  Here it is after one cleaning.

It took me around 1.5 hrs to remove the tack strips.  I cleaned the floor first because it was pretty gross sliding over the floor the night before with all those sticky spots.  Here are the tools I used to pry up the tack strips.

The technique that worked best was to gently slide a stiff 2″ flat tool (the one with the red & black handle that isn’t a screwdriver) under the tack strip between the nails and pull up on the handle to break the wood strips.  I sometimes used the small pry bar to make it a little faster.  I pried up a few feet of tack strip & then went back around to pull up the nails with a hammer.

After the tack strips were up it took me another 30 minutes for a 2nd cleaning.  So here’s where we had at the end of work day two (complete with a Mac photobomb).

I would like to try some Bona on the floors to see if they will get a little more shine back, but I will need to do the entry at the same time so I am saving that fun task for the future.

We took a family trip to Home Depot to get the supplies for adding the quarter round molding to the baseboards to cover up the gap between the floor.  We decided to get a nail gun to make the job easier.  On the advice of the guy at the store, we bought a Ryobi battery operated nail gun that uses the same batteries as our drill & other tools.  It doesn’t require a noisy compressor & the price point is more reasonable for occasional DIY jobs than the other nail guns.  This thing is FUN (& a little scary).

RyobiNailGunWe cut the pre-primed quarter round trim pieces down from 16′ to 8′ so it would (barely) fit in the car.  Next time (if there is a next time), I would be a little more strategic in the sizes that I cut at the store so there wasn’t as much cutting required  when we got home – but this stuff is cheap at less than 50 cents a linear foot.

Next came the cutting (while my parents played with Liam).  I don’t have a lot of pictures of that because 1) it’s not interesting and 2) it’s enough of a PITA without stopping to take pictures.   We labeled all the pieces with which wall they were for right after cutting to make it a little easier to install.  We did a dry fit and at the end of the day, all but one piece was cut correctly the first time.

But this piece took another 3 or 4 times to get the angle & length right.

Fast forward a week to the next weekend for the rest of the steps.  The painting was pretty quick since we already have left over trim paint.  I spread out all the pieces in the basement storage room on a plastic drop cloth and just gave them a quick coat in about half an hour.  Then came the fun part (the only fun part about trim) using the nail gun!  I read the instructions for the nail gun, which were surprisingly short, and we tested it out on a couple of scrap pieces of wood to make sure the pressure was right.

It only took about 15 minutes to nail in all the pieces.   I caulked the seams and called it finished for now.  There is still trim touch up that needs to happen but it is really very minor (and who goes around looking that closely at your trim anyway).  We also need to stain and install a transition piece in the threshold between the kitchen and dining room and fill a few nail holes but overall I’m very happy about having hardwoods instead of icky carpet in the dining room.  It is especially nice when you eat with a toddler whose idea of table manners is throwing food to the dog when he’s all done.

Here’s the before & after.  Yay for no more carpet!  I also got a couple more dining chairs from World Market to add to the set.  We usually end up with more than 6 people (including the kids) when we have people over so squeezing in a couple more chairs on the 8 foot table made sense (& the chairs were on mega sale  BONUS!)  WHY would anyone cover this up!!


After (obviously taken at a different time of day than the before):

I was featured on Remodelaholic

I party with Remodelaholic


Christmas Ornament Garland

I decided that our staircase needed something pretty for Christmas.  I started researching greenery garland & figured out that the nice faux stuff was really expensive.  As I was looking for alternatives, I saw some pretty pictures of ornament garland here and here and decided go for it on a grand scale.  Since I planned to do the entire staircase, I went with a single color with multiple sizes and textures (shiny, matte & glitter) because I was afraid that multi-color would be too busy.  I found the SHATTERPROOF ornaments at IKEA in boxes of 50 for a pretty good price and bought a couple of boxes just to try it out.  I was happy with the first strand so I watched the stock on IKEA’s website for a few days until they got a new shipment & I pounced.  One of the worker’s told me not to hog them all because they weren’t getting another shipment, so I bought an extra couple of boxes just in case :-).  All in I got 22 boxes – 20 red and 2 silver.  This is what they looked like in the back of the SUV.  That’s what 1000 ornaments look like.

So as you can see I have my work cut out for me.  I found that 100 ornaments made a 4.5 foot long swag.  I need 9 swags for my staircase so that came out to around 900 ornaments.  IMPORTANT NOTE: These are SHATTERPROOF ornaments (e.g. plastic).  This is important for all sorts or reasons including safety for young kids (Liam is already enjoying playing with the garland as he goes by), storage and general sanity.

The other supplies needed for this project are 1/4″ ribbon – about 3 yards/100 ornaments, scissors, scotch tape, a towel & bows of your choosing.

First layout all the ornaments on a towel on the floor where you want to work.  Pick a comfortable place in front of the TV because each swag takes about 30 minutes to string.

Cut a piece of ribbon about 3 yards long and wrap one end in scotch tape to make the stringing easier.

Tie the other end of the ribbon to something (I used a table) and leave at least 12″ of ribbon slack at that end for hanging.

Start stringing.  I didn’t have a pattern but tried to space out the textures and sizes throughout the string with the largest ornaments in the middle.  Push the ends together as you are stringing to make sure you get a nice snug fit.  The ends of these ornaments were securely fastened so I didn’t need to worry about them popping off like the older glass ornaments will do – so if you are using those then you may want to use some glue to secure before you string.

Keep stringing.  In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the towel is to keep my carpet from getting covered in red glitter.

At the end of the 2 boxes I ended up with a 54″ swag of ornament garland.

Isn’t that pretty!

Next I used the excess ribbon on each end to tie the strand to the banister.  For the ends next to the walls – I screwed a tiny little eye hook into the banister to tie on the ribbon because those strands kept slipping down the rail to the nearest baluster.

I made a few simple burlap bows from wired burlap ribbon with a little red sparkle & added those to the end posts.

In the end, I used around 925 ornaments and 28 yards of ribbon since I made one strand a little longer than the rest since the railing was too long for the 54″ strand but not long enough to need 2 swags.   The whole project took me 5-6 hours spread out over 3 weeks and cost $200 (Garland from Pottery Barn would’ve been at least twice the cost on sale).   The time & money investment isn’t too bad since I plan to use this next year and the next & the next & the next forever.

Ready for the big reveal….

DIY: Ornament Garland for Staircase


Front Door Makeover

Our front door has been waiting on a makeover since we moved in; I bought the paint for it back in January and then never got around to actually painting the door. We put up new lights and got rid of the overgrown bushes but never quite got to the door. Since it was one of the last small projects on The List, I decided to tackle it so it could be pretty for Christmas. Here it is before – such a sad brown color with bright brass hardware.

So I started by taking off the brass kick-plate to spray paint it along with the rest of the door hardware.   Surprise!  Rot!  Uh oh!  This stopped me in my tracks for 10 minutes until I could get Kevin to take a look.  The bottom of the door is rotted almost all the way through on one side and not doing much better on the other.  We will need a new door sooner than later, but since those are expensive we decided to go ahead and put some lipstick on this pig until we get a replacement.

Taking off the hardware was pretty easy – just unscrew the dead bolt & knob from the inside & pop off the bottom cover of the handle & unscrew it as well.

I set all the door hardware out on some cardboard in the front yard so I could spray paint using the Krylon Dual Metallic Finish with the paint & primer in one.  The closest color that Home Depot had to coordinate with the black light fixtures was called Carbonite.

In order to make sure that the screw heads matched the rest of the kick-plate once it was re-installed, I set the screws in the original holes and pushed them into the cardboard.

For the deadbolt, I put a spare key in the key hole so that the spray paint wouldn’t mess up the lock and stood it up by pushing the back bar through the cardboard.

Same for the main handle.  With the handle, it’s also important to move the lever for at least a coat so that all the surfaces are painted.  I learned it probably would have been best to push the lever down for the first coat instead of the 2nd/3rd so that you don’t mess up the finish on the tip of the lever (like I did).  It’s not very noticeable but a good lesson for later.

Here it is after 1 coat.  It took about 4-5 very thin coats to get an even finish.

I alternated spray painting the hardware with coats on the front door.  Here is what the paint looks like in the can…definitely a little pinker than it turned out in the end.

Supplies needed for painting were pretty minimal – just a plastic roller pan, 4″ roller, 2″ paint brush, drop cloth & some rags.

After one coat it was looking pretty good but looking back I probably should have primed it first to cut down on a top coat or two.

I didn’t wait long enough (according to the can) between the first few coats because I was afraid I wasn’t going to finish before it got dark.  I would definitely recommend starting early in the morning so that you have plenty of drying time between coats.

A trick that I like to use to keep the paint & brushes from drying out between the coats is to cover the roller pan with Glad Press’n Seal.  This cuts down on the clean up and is easy to remove & replace each time between coats.  During clean-up if I’m not going to keep the roller, I wrap it in press’n seal & pull it off the handle & drop it in the trash.   If I’m using one of the cheap plastic roller trays, I just drop it in a trash bag & seal it up.  That may not be “green” but it does save a lot of clean up time.

I think the door took about 4 coats of paint plus some touch up in the panels.

Here’s the finished product.  SOO much prettier than the sad brown door.

The hardware turned out really nicely as well.  I had to get it back on before it was fully cured because it got dark, but luckily it didn’t get scratched up.  Hopefully the finish will hold up but this was definitely a cheaper alternative than paying $200+ for new hardware.

It’s pretty from the inside too!

I think the front of the house looks so much nicer with the red door & without brass hardware.  We also added the garage hardware recently to make them look like the newer carriage doors that several neighbors have.

One last before:

& after:

Playroom Wall Art Projects

The playroom walls have been empty since it was painted nearly 5 months ago.  At first I had trouble figuring out what to do with the big wall over the futon.  I bought a couple of 16×20 canvas prints but they were MUCH too small for the wall so they are now hanging on either side of the door.  I stole an idea from a friend for the wall opposite the windows & just had not gotten around to hanging it again after the paint job (since the process was so much fun the first time around) so due to The List I finally got this room looking more …well…playful.

First let’s look at the idea to display kid’s art that I stole from a friend.  Liam brings home art regularly from school and in order to keep the fridge from being overloaded with baby footprints or collages; I decided to display them in the playroom.  A college friend has the same thing in her kitchen so I can’t take credit for this idea but I really love how it turned out.

Here is my little “helper” showing me that a measuring tape is a great toy.

For this project you just need the DIGNITET curtain wire  & a pack of RIKTIG curtain hooks with clips from Ikea.  The curtain wire is not the easiest thing to put up (that’s why it took me 5 months to get it back on the wall).   I learned a couple lessons the first time and this time I knew to use a GOOD pair of wire clippers for cutting the wire to the right length & solid drywall anchors.  I still had one of the ends pull the anchors out of the wall slightly when I was tightened the wire.

The display ended up being around 7′ long & it looks great with a selection of Liam’s art from the past few months.  It’s really easy to change out what’s on display and only cost around $16.

The next wall to tackle was the one over the futon which can be seen from the entry & dining room.  I didn’t want anything that screamed baby and I thought about some of the larger wall decals but never found anything that was right.  As I was searching on Etsy.com, I found a set of 4×6 Printable ABC Flashcards.  The graphics were cute and colors worked well with the playroom so I decided to use them to create a picture grid wall.   I printed them on card stock on a nice laser printer (I’m sure you can guess where….shhh!)  I tried to save paper/ink the first time by printing 4 per page, but ended up getting the scale wrong so I highly recommend a test print & measure of 1 sheet before printing them all.

I found frames at IKEA that were 2 for $2.99 and very lightweight.  I cut out each flashcard using a straight-edge paper trimmer like this one and then framed the set.  I used 1 small size Command Strips at the top of each frame for hanging – velcro the front and back of the strip together before applying to the frame & leave the backing on the wall side until ready to hang.

Now for the fun part – hanging 26 frames in a even, level grid on the wall.   I decided to use 1″ painters tape to layout my grid with a top row of 6 frames, two middle rows of 7 and the bottom row of 6.

First I measured to find the center of the wall horizontally & then the vertical center of the collection.  I hang art so that the center of the piece is at 64″-65″ off the floor – this is a higher than some recommendations but since Kevin and I are on the taller side of average this works out to be about eye level for us.   I put up the  horizontal tape lines first & aligned the top of the middle piece of tape at 64″ high (measure up from the floor at each end & then use a level & adjust the tape until it is level).  Next use a frame on top of the tape line and bottom & mark the wall with a pencil to indicate where to put the next 2 horizontal tape lines (remember to level!).

Next up – vertical tape lines – for the middle 2 rows there are an odd number of frames so one will be centered on the wall.  Measure to the center of the wall & mark it on the horizontal tape line.   Measure to find the center of a frame then align the center of the frame (or measuring tape) with the center of the wall & mark the tape on each side with a pencil.  Apply the vertical tape lines to make 2 rows and continue using frames to measure & apply tape.  For the top & bottom rows – center the first piece of tape in the center of the wall and then use a frame to measure out from there.  Here is what my final grid of tape looked like.

Now it’s time to start hanging some frames I started with Z and worked backwards.  Take the wall side paper backing off the command strips and align the frame with the bottom right tape strips.  Even though the tape was supposed to be level, I still used a level to double check each frame prior to pressing the Command strip to the wall.

The great thing about the command strips is that you can fix goofs like this when you see that the pictures are not in the correct order.  I also used the level on top of each pair of pictures to make sure the frames stayed level all the way across.

The rest of the project was pretty quick since hard part was measuring it all out.

After all the frames are hung, just remove the painters tape from between the frames.  The other advantage to command strips for a picture frame grid is that you don’t have to worry about the frames shifting off level & looking wonky.

Overall this ended up being 33″ tall & 44.5″ wide.  The project cost $ $60 ($18 for the ABC flash cards & $42 for the frames). The grid fills up that big wall nicely and Liam was very excited about it and started pointing as soon as he saw it.

Here’s my favorite little munchkin enjoying reading a book under his new ABC art.

How to Build Basement Storage Shelves

We are lucky to have a large unfinished storage area in our basement.  The area is approximately 13′ wide & 36′ long.  That’s 468 SF!  Our first condo was only 200 SF bigger than this storage area.  There is a window out to the backyard so I suppose we could finish part of this if we ever feel the need for more finished space but right now that isn’t necessary.  The picture below is how it looked before we moved in.

Pretty exciting eh?!  The previous owners did us the “favor” of leaving a bunch of their crap down there after moving out so we had the pleasure of trashing a lot of it and then figuring out a way to get rid of 10 rolls of miscellaneous carpet.  Hello Craigslist!  We rolled out, measured & took pictures of each piece on Sunday and then listed it on CL as free to anyone that would take it all AND  haul it off.   It was gone in under 3 hours.  I love Craigslist.

One of the closets in the basement was filled with plastic storage bins holding our Christmas and other seasonal decorations/stuff.  There is also a cedar closet that has even more plastic storage bins filled with baby clothes & toys.  These were good areas for storage but difficult to access individual bins so after looking around Pinterest I found a couple ideas that I really liked for our unfinished space like this one & this one.  I enlisted my dad for help and we knocked out one of these shelving units in about 6 hours including the trip to Home Depot for supplies.

Tools Needed:

  • Power Drill
  • Circular Saw
  • Table Saw
  • Tape Measure
  • Square
  • Pencil
  • Chalk Line
  • 2 people w/ safety glasses

Material for 1 shelf:

  • 15 – 8ft long 2x4s
  • 2 – 10 ft long 2x4s (for the front posts to tie into the floor beams at top)
  • 2 – 4ft x 8ft sheets of plywood
  • 1 – Box of 2.5” wood screws
  • 1 – Box of 1” wood screws

Total Cost for 2 (including $20 to rent the HD truck to get the wood home) – $180

We used a slightly different construction method than the 2 blog posts above and it seemed to work out well.   The first unit is sturdy & there is no risk of toppling especially once it is loaded.

After hauling all the wood down to the basement clearing the area of stuff, we laid out the wood for the back of shelving.  We didn’t cut any of the 2x4s since I wanted the shelves to be 8′ wide.   This picture shows what will be the back of the frame.  We made sure that it was square by measuring each diagonal from corner to corner and adjusting until they were equal measurements.  We secured the corners with the 2.5″ wood screws first and then moved on to measuring, nudging, squaring & screwing in the horizontal shelf supports.  We determined the height of each shelf by measuring the average height of the storage containers (18″) and adding a couple inches for clearance.  Don’t forget to account for the height of the plywood when measuring where to put each shelf supports.  The top shelf is approximately 6′ high.  Lastly we squared & secured the middle back support.

We lifted this one up and leaned it against the back wall & followed the same steps for the front frame minus the center 2×4 support.

We used the table saw to cut all the middle supports to 22.5″ long so the finished shelves will be 2′ deep.  I didn’t get any pictures of the next part because it took both of us to hold the 2 frames together while we screwed in the middle supports.  We put 4 supports on each level & used 2 screws for each side.  The initial row was the most difficult because we had to keep it square & hold everything up.  The end pieces in the corner were also a pain because we didn’t have much clearance for the drill since we couldn’t move the unit too much due to the duct.  Here’s what we ended up with before adding the plywood for shelves.

Next we used measured the depth of each shelf to see how wide to cut the plywood.  They ended up being slightly off the 2′ measurement due to screws not pulling the wood flush at each support.  We measured the plywood at each end  and used a chalk line to mark the straight line for our circular saw & then made the cut.  We ended up cutting all 4 sheets of plywood so we would already have that step done for the next unit.  The plywood fit the shelves easily & we secured it with the 1″ wood screws.

We realized that we would only have time to build one unit that day so here is the finished product with a few things loaded.  The extra wood to the side is the material for the 2nd unit that we haven’t had the time to build yet.

I couldn’t load the unit that evening because it was late and I was tired & sore from carrying heavy wood and building the thing.  Here it a couple nights later after I labeled the boxes with my new label maker & loaded them in.  Doesn’t that just look great!  I’ve used it a few times since we built it and it is so nice to be able to just pull out the one box that I need without unloading the entire contents of a closet.

We’re planning to store Kevin’s guitars in the closet that we cleaned the holiday stuff out of so I’ll be back with an update on how that works out.

I’m excited to build the next one so we can move all the baby stuff out of the other closet & on a shelf so that is easier to manage.  I have a feeling that our Christmas decorations are going to multiply substantially this year so we may be using that 2nd unit for Christmas instead of baby….

*One little note – I’m far from an expert on how to build stuff so this method worked for me but I cannot be held responsible for your personal safety or the outcome of your own projects.