Thursday, January 31, 2008

Trimming the Fat off of Your Life

Chile of Chile Chews has offered up another challenge- a spending freeze for the month of February. I'm in. We need to be in, even. My husband is hopefully starting grad school this summer, and we need a jump-start to tightening the proverbial bootstraps, both monetarily and time-wise. Time to create some new habits.

Items that don't "count" (i.e. are necessary): mortgage, bills, gasoline, car repairs, etc.

I will also allow myself to buy things for necessary (as opposed to cosmetic) home improvements... like weatherstripping, new doors to prevent heat loss out the back and front, etc. They, do have to be USED and CHEAP. Nothing new in February.

What won't I buy? Clothes, shoes, prepackaged foods, cd's, things for decorating a house, etc. (Not that I buy a lot of those anyway, because I don't.)

I will try to cut down my internet time (and electric bill) to spend MORE time working on my home and LESS time in front of my computer "researching" my home.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Little Bit of Life in Winter

What a cold week it has been. BRRRR.

I tried to banish just a little bit of the cold with an herb kit my sister gave me for my birthday. Doesn't it look cute on the windowsill?


I can't wait for some fresh herbs to take away the winter blahs.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bathroom Color?

Remember my can of miss tinted paint?


I painted some sample swatches on the walls:

It's hard to see it with the ugly blue wall color that is there now.


Does it match my baskets? I want to keep my baskets (though I plan on getting rid of the over-the-toilet hutch and using wall shelves instead).


It seems to match the slate floors well.

I think we will keep it. We can always try another color!

A Studio Makeover

First, I apologize for the lack of "before" pictures. I didn't intend on doing much when I started a few days ago, but rest assured it was a complete mess. In fact, you could hardly walk into it. I just wanted to do something nice for my husband while was out of town and pick up the junk that I had left in there so there would be room for him to practice... but I did a little more.

The room in question is my husband's studio/study. It is a 10 ft by 12 ft area, including the closet space. It needs to hold a 4-1/3 octave marimba, a drum set, a large file cabinet and bookshelf, a cello, a guitar and amp, 300 CD's, and a number of other band and orchestra instruments. He uses it primarily for practicing all of those instruments.

Previously, we had painted the white room a light cream and painted the dark brown and in terrible repair baseboards a moss green. We also removed the garish gold tone mirrored closet doors and painted the interior of the closet and the header the same moss green. We intend on replacing the baseboards and the carpet in the future. But right now, it just has to be LIVABLE.

I spent the day hanging up CD shelves and paintings and laying down a new area rug, recycled from my in-law's recent remodel. I also reorganized the layout and bought a black 6 foot bookcase to add more bookshelf space and match the existing black file cabinet. VERY cheap, and hopefully temporary. Someday I would love to redo the entire closet with built-in shelving and file cabinets.


Notice the loft space above the closet, where the instruments have gone. The wire CD racks are existing relics from college that have found a new life as wall shelves. The books and computer components have all found a home in the new bookcase.

I placed the drum set in the corner by the window, place two cowbells on the window, and hung a Chinese calendar and hat that a brother brought back for us along with a picture made of wood that a student gave him between it and the marimba (which takes up the entire other wall).

My favorite addition is this:

It is a painting of one of our favorite places (Lake McConaughy) by a very good family friend and fabulous artist, Mick Shimonek. It was a Christmas gift a few years ago that we hadn't found the right wall for (our living room walls are way too small). I think I found a good place for it:


It really dresses up the whole room. Plus, it's a great reminder of summer sunsets on the beach, sailing, and playing fetch until the dog drops at your feet.

The guitar and amp found a home behind the door, in a space just the size for them. The cello found a nook between the bookcase and CD rack.

I didn't have time (as I left town yesterday), but I still want to buy bamboo roll up shades for the two windows. They will help keep the sun off of the delicate instruments, tie in the Chinese artwork, and add decoration to the bare windows. I will have to look for used bamboo shades.

Bookcase: $20
Screws: $2.27

Monday, January 21, 2008

Big Box Store Finds and Breaking of Resolutions

I went to Lowe's for nails to finish my door jamb. I broke my "try to only buy used" resolution. Sigh. I left with:

A Bathroom Vanity Light

We've been eyeing lights for a while, and couldn't afford anything nice. I hope my husband likes this one, too!

$20, marked down from $98

3 Cabinet Pulls

They will look so much better on the bathroom vanity than the cheap plastic pulls!
$.70 each, marked down from $7

ONE Gallon of Tan/Cream Paint

It looks like the perfect color for the bathroom, and is a gloss paint. Perfect! I suppose this is ALMOST buying used, since it was a mistint. And, it was free.

$5, minus $5 rebate ($0), marked down from $25

A Dummy Door Handle
The door for the water heater closet we bought didn't come with a handle. Found one!

$1.35, marked down from $13.96


the one I didn't buy... YET...

A Copper Mailbox!

Again, I'm not sure if my husband will want THIS mailbox or not. And, I'm not sure if it's going to "patina" or not... I really only want it if it will get a nice patina. So, I haven't bought it yet, but I may go back tonight and get it.

$40, marked down from $80.

On Door Jambs and Frugality

We installed the door jamb in the bathroom yesterday (and today).

First, we measured the door opening from top to the floor. We cut each side of the jamb to exactly that height, using our new miter saw.


Then, we placed the jamb sides in the door frame, measured the distance between, and cut a piece of jamb that was that size for the header.

After we cut our header, we nailed the jamb together for installation.


We used our square to keep the corners squared as we tapped wire brads into the wood to hold the jamb together.

We reused the old nails from the previous door jamb by carefully tapping them back into shape.


Miserly, miserly people we are.

We used these nails (plus a few more- remember, the old jamb was held up by 5 nails) to attach the jamb to the studs.


But WAIT... what is THAT? That huge GAP between the header and the side?
We can't have that.

Back to the saw with a fresh set of measurements taken with the sides pressed firmly against the studs.


After putting FOUR nails in each board, our jamb seems secure.

We used solid pine instead of MDF to increase the permanence and solidity of our jamb and door installation.

Door Jamb: Home Depot
Nails: Salvage and Lowe's

Door Jamb: $18
Nails: Free and $2 for a box

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Draft Dodgers

Are you finding that your old house is drafty and cold as winter settles in? Make a draft dodger to place at the bottom of the door. This will block some of those chilly drafts and keep your heating bill lower.

To make a draft dodger:
1) Fill two old tube socks with sand, tie, and place against door.
2) Take a piece of fabric that is 13 inches tall and as long as your door (32 inches in my case). Fold it in half so the fabric is now 6.5 inches by 32 inches (or so). Sew a straight line down the edge. You may want to sew it twice for reinforcement. Turn the tube inside out, sew one end closed, fill the tube with sand, sew the other end closed, and place against door.

As part of my challenge to ReThink It, I spent some time looking through my clothing donation/rag bag for suitable cloth. I found two parts of brown corduroy pants with big rips and stains. I created a long piece of color blocked fabric by cutting out matching squares and sewing them together.


I made two draft dodgers for our outside doors. Here's to a slightly toastier winter!

Fabric: old pants
Sand: leftover from patio project

Cost: $0

You Know It's Cold When...

you do the household chores you have been lazily putting off simply because doing them will heat the house!

So far I have washed 2 loads of white laundry on HOT, dried them using our electric dryer with the vent venting INSIDE, and started the dishwasher. I'm thinking I should also make some soup stock, too... just to have on hand. That will warm the house up.

Have I turned the head above 54? No... I'm too cheap. I'm not touching that thermostat!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Garage- Part Two

I tackled the workbench area of the garage today. It was a gorgeous 50 degrees outside.

Remember our "before"?

This is the result of today's cleaning and organization spree:
Photobucket Photobucket

Everything in it's place, and for every place, a thing.

And look... my miter saw finally has a home! Now I can use it to finish the door jambs.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Garage- A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a nice 1 car garage. It lived a happy existence until a young couple moved in with all of their junk. The young couple filled it to the top with old clothes, moving boxes, bikes, scrap wood, and old doors.

One day the young couple cleaned out the entire garage and had a garage sale and freecycle event. The garage sighed a big sigh of relief. There was even room to park a CAR in there now!

Unfortunately, the young couple did NOT think far enough in the future and did not take the time to build storage or organize the garage and it's remaining inhabitants. Slowly, slowly the junk returned...
... including 900 feet of flooring, 6 doors, 5 chairs, a swamp cooler, backpacking supplies, a sheet of DRYWALL, and MORE!

The garage was sad. Nobody came to visit anymore, since they couldn't even get in the door!

Then, one day the young woman decided to install a door jamb, door, and trim. She wanted to use the new miter saw that they had gotten for Christmas, but there was nowhere to set it up and nothing to bolt it to... except the workbench at the back of the garage.

She made a valiant effort to dislodge some of the clutter...


and succeeded in finding homes for all of the garden and yard tools! She screwed some shelves up with old brackets and boards, screwed an old kitchen cabinet into the wall, and nailed rows of nails into the studs to hold shovels and rakes.

The garage breathed a small sigh of relief. At least a person could walk into it now!

Will the garage live happily ever after, or will the clutter seek vengeance upon the empty and organized space and swallow it whole? Stay tuned...

(Cost: $0 Materials: Used brackets, wood, nails, etc)

New Years Resolutions 2008, Part 2- Lessening Our Consumption and Enriching our Lives

A few days ago I posted a list of New Year's Resolutions pertaining to our house and its remodeling. Though long and exhaustive, it is not a complete list of goals for the year.

My husband and I have become increasingly concerned with environmental concerns. Over the last year or two we have obtained reusable grocery bags, searched Habitat ReStores, Craigslist, and Freecycle for needed building supplies instead of buying new, made a concerted effort to buy from the farmer's market first, and more.

Here is what we want to do this year to lessen our impact and improve our life:

Build Efficient Compost Piles
We already compost by dumping organic matter into the space between the fence and the garage. It doesn't compost very fast, however. I want to build a series of two or three compost bins to rotate the material between in this space. I even have the material: pallets that I salvaged from the scrap wood pile at the city recycling center. Some decking screws and time, and I can have a great set of bins with lots of airflow.

Plant Buffalo Grass (or other native grass)
When we finish the backyard we hope to seed with drought tolerant grasses. Why grass at all? We have dogs. A pretty lame excuse. For the past 2 years I have watered our front lawn (which is fine fescue) about 3 or 4 times a year... hopefully after establishment a native backyard will need that or less.

Use My Human Powered Lawnmower
I received a great present this year: a Brill Luxus 38 Lawnmower. My goal is to NEVER use the old gas powered one in the garage.

Replace the Front and Back Doors
We lose a substantial amount of heat out of our backdoor. I recently discovered that it is actually a hollow core INTERIOR door. No wonder the laundry room (and our bedroom) is 10 degrees colder than the rest of the house! The front door is in better shape, but rotting and cracked.

Seal ALL Windows and Doors/Apply Weatherstripping
Much heat is lost through cracks around doors and windows. Adding weatherstripping will make a big difference.

Bed Warmers
We drop the heat by quite a bit at night. We use two fluffy down comforters to keep warm. While at my parent's house this Christmas, however, we were introduced to the delights of a bedwarmer, which might allow us to drop the heat even further. We are looking to either find an old metal one to fill with heated water (reused, of course) or make one out of cherry pits. Of course, I may keep an eye out for one of these...

Shop at the Farmer's Market FIRST

We made a valiant effort this past summer to make it to the farmer's market every week before grocery shopping. We forgot a few times. This summer, I want to make it EVERY week.

Join a CSA

In addition to the Farmer's Market, I want to investigate (and hopefully join) a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I know there will be foods that we have no idea what to do with (thinking beets and squashes off the top of my head), so an additional goal is to learn to cook those foods.

Plant a Vegetable Garden

Our backyard is nearing completion. I want to finish the vegetable garden beds by April in the hopes of planting tomatoes and cucumbers and all sorts of yummy foods. I also want to more fully intersperse herbs into my flower beds.

Replace Old Plastic Tupperwares
We have a large drawer of plastic. Most of it is old yogurt and cheese containers that we repurposed for use as tupperware. We have become increasingly concerned with plastic leaching into our foods during storage and reheat, and so are looking to buy some glass containers. No worries... the old plastic will NOT be trashed. I have so many home improvement things such as nails, screws, tape, etc that would LOVE a home in a nice small container!

Find or Make Reusable Produce Bags

I found some great bags here, but the shipping from Canada is outrageous. I am hoping to make or find something similar to carry produce home in.

Buy Only Used (as much as possible)

Somewhat self explanatory. My resolution is to look at thrift stores, reuse stores, and the internet to find what I need used BEFORE I look for new. Especially clothes. Except underwear and socks.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Removing a Door Jamb

I removed the old and ugly door jamb from the bathroom yesterday. We are putting a HEAVY mahogany door with embedded mirror up, and we didn't think the MDF/particle board jambs would hold up to the 50 or 60 lbs of weight.

First, I pried off the trim. Though it is ugly, we want to put it back on temporarily until we replace all of the trim.


The best tool for this job of preserving the trim was a paint scraper (otherwise known as "most useful tool ever").


Then, I got to use my new Makita 18V Cordless drill to take the hinges and such off! It worked beautifully. I love that drill.

I don't have a reciprocating saw to cut the nails holding the jamb to the studs, so I was forced to pry VERY carefully with my hammer. Doing this, I discovered ANOTHER reason we should replace it. The jamb was held up and together with only 5 nails!

Unfortunately, it wasn't that easy. While the nails were easily found and removed, the CAULK and GLUE that the POs had used to attach the trim to the backside were NOT so easily removed. Enter my paint scraper (most useful tool ever). After 30 minutes of scraping and prying, I finally freed the jamb from the wall and the trim.


Stunning, isn't it!

How to install a door jamb tomorrow. I have guests coming on Sunday, and they need a door to the only bathroom.

ReThink It!

I am taking Chile of Chile Chews up on her challenge to Rethink It:
Reduce-Reuse-Recycle: Rethink it! The purpose of this challenge is to help you reduce your consumption, expenses, and garbage by getting you to think about every aspect of the recycling logo. Break out of old habits and find new ways to reduce your consumption, reuse what you can in creative ways, and recycle everything else.
How can I break the mold? What can I do better to reduce my consumption? What can I reuse instead of throwing away? More to follow.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Look What Was Under OUR Tree!

Our wonderful families gave us some great new tools for Christmas:

A Brill Luxus 38 Push Mower

I am very excited to mow our lawn this summer WITHOUT the use of gasoline! This should be just perfect for our little patch of front lawn, and for the small (and hard to reach) patches we plan to plant in the backyard. No toxic fumes, no fossil fuels. LOTS of exercise!

A Craftsman Toolbox
Finally, our tools have a home that is not an old shoebox! They are all organized, too. Any guesses on how long that will last?

A Black and Decker Crossfire Auto Level Laser

What fun! It "marks" a level and plumb line on the wall with a laser beam. Now we can easily check how far off our cabinets are. This will be awesome for building the wall in our bedroom/laundry room.

A Makita 18V 1/2" LXT Lithium-Ion Hammer Driver-Drill Kit
Energy Star rating and everything! I am SO excited to play with this. On first look, it has a light, an electric brake to stop the drill immediately when you release the trigger, a clutch, 3 speeds and 3 settings, and more! Plus, it makes a really great "vrt vrt" sound.

A Ryobi 10" Compound Miter Saw
Just what we need for the flooring and trim work! I've been drooling over one while watching all of the home improvement shows on TLC and HGTV on business trips.

A medley of other hand tools, including wood chisels, wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers. We've been using a Leatherman multi-tool for most applications for the past year... and now we don't have to!


New Year's Resolutions 2008

It is that time of year again... a new year. A good time to set goals and benchmarks for upcoming projects and to plan for the future. My plans for the year include:

1) Finish Bathroom
Paint, trim, new doors and framing, new vanity extensions.

2) Replace Front and Back Door
Find and refinish doors, new framing

3) Finish Landscaping Backyard (and Plant)
Build deck, build small patio, finish fire pit, build raised vegetable gardens, finish doggy sandbox, PLANT!

4) Finish Master Bedroom
Build wall to separate it from the laundry room, build closet, install french doors, remove window into next room, floor, remove paneling and finish drywall, paint, possibly some built-ins.

5) Finish Laundry Room
See above... plus, finish hanging old kitchen cabinets, build new shelves, finish drywall, paint cabinets and walls, lay slate.

6) Wood Flooring
The biggest project: Rip out old flooring. Replace with 100 year old heart pine that is sitting in the garage.

7) Replace Trim
Replace the nasty pressed wood 70's trim, that was badly painted and is broken and cracking with something more tasteful.

8) Research and Plan Exterior Paint/Stucco/Re-Siding
Research, research, research.

9) Dog Door
Buy dog door, cut hole in wall, frame out, and screw in.

10) Compost Piles
Nail hardwood pallets together to form two or three compost bins beside the garage for easy composting.

Ambitious? Yes. Let's see how much we can do this year!

Mouse Update and Pest-a-Cator 2000 Review

Update: We STILL have mice.

We didn't catch any mice in our live traps in the 4 days we left them down before leaving for the holidays. Each night we were woken up by the tiny sound of tiny jaws grinding. I'm not sure that they can get into the actual living space yet; they may be trapped in the walls.

We left for 2 weeks of holiday traveling and visiting. We left the Pest-a-Cator 2000 plugged in but picked up the live traps. The packaging says that it may take 4 weeks to cause an effect in the mouse population, and recommends the use of traps in tandem with the device.

Last night, after leaving the house alone with no inhabitants for two weeks, there was NO sound of small grinding teeth! I'm thinking the Pest-a-Cator 2000 might have actually done some good. I have set the live traps again, just to be sure, but there are no signs of mice in our house. I am surprised, as I expected total infestation upon our return!

The Pest-a-Cator 2000 works by gently pulsing the electricity stream, which apparently drives mice batty. There seems to be no ill effects; the computer is working fine, as are the other appliances. The dogs are sleeping and unstressed, and us humans have noticed no effect on our mood. I believe I will leave it plugged in indefinitely.

UPDATE: We STILL have mice (and just caught one)