Monday, December 20, 2010

Design on a Dime, eat your heart out.

Sometimes home improvement is really cheap.  To wit:

I finally got around to shimming the bathroom door.  It was really hard to get the lock to latch and you had to lean your body into the door to get it to close.  I used a cardboard box, cut to spec, as a shim:

A shoe box, to be specific.

Then I removed the door and installed the cardboard behind the hinge hardware.  Now it latches like a pro and I got to yell at myself for not taking the five minutes to do this a year ago.

The toilet was still rocking, even though Bill and I had changed the wax ring on it.  Aren't you glad I never documented that?

I bought toilet shims but they were so fricking huge that I couldn't use them.  All I needed was a single dime in the back. 

How good does that look?  I know, I should loosen the floor bolts and wedge that dime under the toilet all the way, but I can't get those stupid bolt caps off.  It's funny because that's precisely why I bought them.

But! The toilet doesn't rock.  FINALLY.

For my next trick I will update my kitchen using nine pennies!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's not janky, it's custom.

When I moved into my house there was this huge custom stainless steel plate around the floor register in the kitchen.  I didn't think long on it (I believe my whole thought on it was, "Weird.") because I had to tear out the kitchen floor shortly thereafter.  This is literally the only picture I could find of it.

When the new floor went in, they cut the hole for the vent to the exact same size as before.  Which in retrospect explains the stainless steel plate.  The hole is too big for the register.

For some reason, people like to stand on the register, which makes no sense to me at all.  People kept standing on the register and it started to bend and crack the Marmoleum beneath it.
Fun fact! Registers come in very standard sizes.  They are either 2 inches wide or four inches wide.  They are never 3.4 inches wide, which is what I needed.  I hunted and hunted and finally found a register at Reggio Registers with a two inch bottom and a 3.5 inch top.  The only problem is that it slid around, sometimes showing the hole beneath.  I thought if I could bulk up the base then the register wouldn't slide around and I wouldn't have a stroke every time someone decided to stand on it (but seriously, WHY).

One cheap paint stir stick from the Home Depot on each side, plus some 1/2" square dowels, stacked and nailed into place.

I'm sure this is how a real carpenter would do it. What else are those stir sticks for?

But it worked! Son of a bitch doesn't move!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On failure and shoddy craftsmanship

My kitchen cabinets have seen better days.  The drawers are especially beaten up, lacking any sort of track system to keep them from wearing grooves into the cabinet face.  The veneer is beginning to chip and the drawers make a horrible screeching noise if you don't lift them a little when you pull them out.

I decided to install center mount drawer slides to fix this problem. Follow along, I'll show you how!

First, pick a drawer that you don't use as much.  We want to get our technique down before we get to the problem drawers.

Empty it out.  Such pretty liner paper!

Leave these tacks lying face up on the floor. You're going to want to roll your leg or step on them as much as possible. If your home improvement project doesn't end with a trip to the ER for a tetanus shot, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.

Separate the two parts of the hardware. They have names but I forget what they are. That's probably the lockjaw setting in.

Realize that the groove that's cut in the back of your drawer isn't wide enough to accommodate your hardware. Think about saying "Eff this," but then remember you have a dull hacksaw!  Inelegantly chop a wider clearance in the back of the drawer.

Install your hardware on the back of the drawer. Easy peasy.  This would be a good time to poke yourself with those tacks again.  Or you can just cut yourself on the screws that now poke through the inside bottom of the drawer, because the wood is too thin. 

Stop taking photos at this point because it's so fricking difficult to put screws in straight in such a tiny cramped space. When you're installing the base part of the hardware inside the cabinet, be sure to strip the screw. That way, if it's in the wrong spot, it will NEVER come out.

Marvel at the fact that the one drawer you had that worked well now makes a horrible clicking noise as you try to wrench it open.  Decide that it might just be easier to put those little plastic guards in the rut the drawers are forming in the cabinet face.

Plan to make friendly with a carpenter or a cabinet maker and hope that they can give you a good deal on cabinet refacing down the road.  Voila!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

A few times back I lived in a house with a wood stove and it was, to be a tiny bit hyperbolic, the best thing ever.  Because my house was a foreclosure, we had no idea if the chimney worked.  I guessed, based on the amount of deferred maintenance on the house, that it should be cleaned and inspected before I used it.

I finally had the money to have it looked at right before Thanksgiving.  Walt from American Chimney & Masonry came out and he got REALLY EXCITED because apparently my chimney had never been cleaned.  I'd wander out to get more coffee and Walt would grab me and make me look at the mounting pile of soot that was accumulating.  Look at it!  Look at all of it!

He informed me that the damper in the basement fireplace was deformed and stuck in a permanent open position. 

Which means these guys actually serve a purpose, aside from being awesome.  No cold rushing air or murderous birds shall pass Hall and Oates.  For the low low price of $469 I could have a top damper installed and the basement fireplace would become usable.  Walt started getting excited and I had to be all, "Whoa, buddy. Why would I want a usable basement fireplace when I could have awesome artwork instead?  Also, I don't have $469."

So instead he just cleaned the upstairs fireplace.  He also recommended acquiring a large pipe to use a wedge for the upstairs damper.  The damper is original, really freaking heavy, and being held open by a weak chain.  He couldn't replace the chain; the recommended fix is another top damper.  A pipe, in addition to being stylish, is $8 at Lowe's.  If the chain should break mid-fire, the pipe would keep the damper open and we wouldn't all die of smoke inhalation.  

So we got a fire going on Thanksgiving and all was well until I went into the basement and it was filled with smoke.  We extinguished the fire and got a number of brains on it.  We speculated (a little tipsily but IT'S OKAY TO DRINK AT NOON ON THANKSGIVING) that maybe the smoke was going up the living room chimney and getting sucked down the open flue of the basement chimney where Hall and Oates were clearly slacking on the job.  We sort of shrugged our shoulders until dinner when Carrie, my scientist friend (who had missed our conversation), was like, "Oh, of course! Science, air pressure, smoke density, basement, beep blop bloop," and we were like, "ohhhhhhh."

So yeah, I still can't use my fireplace.  But!  Bill and I were watching Boardwalk Empire, HBO's newest show, and The Commodore, who plays the former boss of Atlantic City and lives in a crazy mansion with all sorts of Victorian furniture, has my same fireplace screen!

Cool, right?

Edited to add: proof!  In a terrible photo of the TV!

I feel so hip.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Will wonders never cease.

I planted pansies back in the beginning of march, when the tulips emerged.  Pansies like the cold and I thought they wouldn't last very long but, hey, they were only $1.49 at Freddy's.

You guys, this one is still alive.  It's nibbled at and kind of mangy looking, but it survived the spring monsoon, incredible heat, and a ton of neglect.

I will probably reward its tenacity by accidentally running it over with a wheelbarrow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why I won't be quitting my day job.

Did your mom ever give you a haircut when you were little, and maybe it wasn't perfect?  Did you maybe give her grief about this for years on end, as if it didn't just grow out in two weeks anyway?

Mama, I am so sorry.

I tried to trim my rhododendron myself.  My bangs may have been a little crooked but my mother never left me with bald spots.  They look so much worse in person.

I'm going to blame this on the fact that: 1. I have no idea what I'm doing and 2. there were SPIDERS THE SIZE OF KITTENS IN THESE.

It was terrifying.  I'm betting right about now that my neighbor across the street wishes I had just left the arbor vitae in, so she wouldn't have to look at my house.  I did mildly better on the mystery willow in the backyard. 




It's harder than it looks!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gardening on a dime

So remember all that dirt that sat in my front yard and how I just dumped it in the backyard, for lack of a better option?  I decided to see if I could transform it without spending much money.

Back in August I went to Portland Nursery and visited their Island of Misfit Plants sale section. They had a heavenly bamboo and a flowering currant.  I already have FOUR flowering currants in my yard but, hey, they're fricking gorgeous and hummingbirds love them.  And they're pink. I love pink in the garden!  I got the plants for less than $20 total.  Not bad, right?

I borrowed some ferns from other parts of the yard, just to have something there. Fast forward to now, when that soil has had a chance to attract every bad element in the neighborhood. Cats have visited, weeds have established themselves, and that clump of bamboo, which sat untended for four years and didnt budge, sent out a runner.

Son of a . . . !?!

I cut out as much as I could and called it a day.  Bamboo, you may be tenacious but I am STUBBORN.  I will move that whole dirt pile (again. later.) if I have to.

Nature!  It just does what it wants, am I right?

I have planted 21 ferns in my yard but this one popped up all by itself. Note to self: replace this deck next spring.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

La la la la, I can't hear you!

It may be getting into the thirties at night, but this little corner of my yard thinks it's still summer.

I so love an optimist.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Readying for winter

Somewhere in the last two months I forgot how to blog.  There was an incident with the big window in the front of my house (turns out it's rotting!) and my sad, sorry attempt to reglaze it.  It's better not to talk about it and instead save my money for a new window. 

I went to Hawai'i with my boy and hit the tropical gardens and I almost rethought all the NW natives I have in my yard. 

Maybe high maintenance tropicals are the way to go?  How gorgeous is that?

I've been clearing out the yard for winter, chopping down my unruly dahlias and planting tulips en masse.  I also planted this freakshow:

It's an allium, which is the genus of onions, and boy did the bulbs smell like it.  Apparently they are good to plant around your tulips and other bulbs because they deter would-be bulb eaters, like voles.  While I was in Hawaii a huge storm came through Portland, which knocked over the patio umbrella (I meant to take it down before I left, I swear) . . . which took the table with it . . . which took out my birdbath . . . which smothered my chives.  There's nothing like returning from paradise to a little bit of reality.  Surprise! You're still a homeowner!  There are no drinks in coconuts here.

It's sort of sad to see everything cleared away, like my poor tomato plants that never got past the green stage.  

I think I'm going to turn my focus this winter to planning the front yard.  And maybe applying for jobs in Hawaii.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What do you think, peanut gallery?

Is it shabby chic or yard trash?  This drawer was from the old vanity in the bathroom.  I threw some cheap dowels on it, thinking I'd seen enough salvage DIY on Design Sponge to make it work.  I decided it looked stupid, then temporarily moved it to the side yard where it magically adopted the perfect leaning angle to look awesome.  

But then I moved it to plant sedums in it and it looks not-awesome again. 

Yes? No? Would it look great if I just had a stone statue of frogs playing checkers?

Monday, September 20, 2010

My crazy is showing

Summer was incredibly short this year.  I had to really hustle to get some of my outdoor projects done.  I have a couple of projects that have been weighing heavily on my mind.  I don't know if other people do this, but I worry that something will happen to me and my family will get stuck trying to sell my house and they won't be able to because the back of my garage looks like this.

It's fun being tightly wound.  It's also fun realizing you left a trowel on the roof when you were cleaning your gutters. *Sigh.*

The back of the garage was really dirty so I had to scrub it down with a brush and some TSP.  That part sucked but painting the cedar shake with a brush was so meditative I *almost* stopped crying over the fact that I'm having to evict my housemate.  It's a long story.

After washing it down I slapped on the only neutral paint I had in a flat finish.  This is my kitchen color.  It really doesn't go well with the mint green.

But! The back of my garage is ONE color that doesn't go with the mint green.  And some day I'll replace that light fixture that's hanging by the wires.  Baby steps.

We'll call it shabby chic.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Quick updates

I planted swiss chard.

The beans are flowering and growing . . .

Cranberry bush beans are almost ready to be picked . . .

If the weather behaves (come on, indian summer!) there will be tomatoes . . .

This crazy feral monstrosity is a tomatillo plant.  Mmmm, tomatillos . . .

I planted what said radicchio, though it looks like leaf lettuce to me.  Leaf lettuce that wilted in the 92 degree heat . . .

Bleeding hearts will self-seed prodigiously, if given enough water . . .

Since my clematis never took off on The Weird Fence . . . 

Me and my boy planted hop plants that he can use in his homebrewing.

Brussels sprouts are chugging right along . . .

What a difference a couple of months make!