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Bookcase Progress

October 5, 2012


I really have been making progress on the bookcase project, albeit very slowly. We kinda got bogged down after two major trips to the Adirondacks and a massive flu/head cold thing. We can barely drag ourselves outta our beds, let alone build a 17-foot by 10-foot bookcase unit. Ugh.

A few days ago we sawed the plywood for the first two shelves. I’m using oak cabinet-grade for the first time. I have to measure very, very carefully because if I make a wrong move and saw too short, that’s a lot of money down the drain! So it’s taking me a while. I hope to assemble the first unit early next week, if my sinuses behave.

I don’t have any photo updates and I haven’t scanned my blueprints for the setup, but all in good time. For now, I’ve got a date with NyQuil and a box of kleenex.

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Built-In Bookcases Project – Halfway There

September 12, 2012

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Here’s the progression thus far:

Before photo. There’s a lot of wasted space along this wall because of the doorway and the narrow width between that and the wall (13 inches). I’d had a fleet of cheapo Chinese particle board bookshelves there, but they were ugly and starting to flex. Plus, two bookshelves are not nearly enough to hold all our books! I have boxes of them stuffed everywhere in the house.

Living Room before 2

I purchased inexpensive unfinished wall cabinets. They are narrow enough to fit in the space (12 inches) but are not tall enough. So I built a simple 2×4 frame for the cabinets to sit on. The frame adds height and provides a toe kick beneath the cabinets, too. I secured this sucker to the floor and the wall studs. This bookcase is not going anywhere!


One cabinet installed already.


The wall has a few outlets and I did not want to conceal them behind the cabinets. So the trusty daughter (who does all my measuring) drew the outline for the outlets.


The son got to use the jigsaw to create the outlet holes.


This was the day’s work!


I have since installed oak plywood counters on both cabinet units, and everything is finally stained and sealed. I didn’t get a photo yet, but trust me — it looks great.

Next — the shelves!!!

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RetroTread Stairs — I Like This!

August 13, 2012

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In the near future, I have to replace my staircase. Several of the treads and risers are cracked, and previous owners have painted the stairs to oblivion. I’m sure the things are loaded with lead paint. :-p Eventually, I’ll have to rebuild the staircase *shudder*. I happened upon this video while doing a little preliminary research. I like these!

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Removing the Hard-Wired Telephone

August 11, 2012

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Remember those old phones from the 1970s, before modular jacks were installed? We didn’t own them but the phone companies rented them to us? Hard-wire phones refer the type of phone connected directly to the wiring system and secured to the wall. While very stable and durable for its day, especially in the busy office environment, modern telephones provide much more flexibility and yield better quality than these old phones. With a little exertion and a few snips with the wire cutters, the device will easily disconnect from the wall.

You’ll Need:
Utility knife
Paper clip
Wire cutters
Electrical tape

Score lightly around the body of the telephone with the utility knife where the phone meets the wall. This will break the paint seal if the wall was painted or the ring of hardened dust in very old phones.

Place the heel of your hand at the bottom of the phone while holding the phone speakerset with your other hand, to stabilize it. Push up on the phone to release the phone from the wall mount. Some phone models have a small metal tab that you must release before loosening the phone from the mount. If so, press the tab with a flat head screwdriver while pushing the phone up with the other hand. Other phone models have small screws concealed behind the phone number card. If so, turn the rotary finger wheel clockwise until it stops and locate a small hole on the frame behind the wheel. Insert the end of a paper clip into the hold and press firmly until the finger wheel pops off. Unscrew the exposed screws to remove the phone from the wall.

Snip each of the four telephone wires, one at a time, that are attached to the back of the phone. If you intend on reusing the wiring for a new telephone, snip the wires as close to the phone as possible. This will give you a little additional wire length for your rewiring project. When all the wires are cut, set the phone aside.

Unscrew the wall mount screws with the screwdriver, if necessary.

Wrap the loose telephone wires together with electrical tape and secure the tape to the wall. This will prevent the wires from slipping back into the wall cavity.

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This Is It: Living Room Re-Do

August 5, 2012

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In 2007, I gutted the living room. It was the first “big” project here and I never intended it to be such a large project. But as is the way with old homes, as soon as I opened a wall and saw what was there, I could not close the wall back up without resolving the problems within. So I ripped out everything and rebuilt it all: new electric, shoring up of the wall studs, insulating the walls, adding additional lighting, new flooring….

While I am very happy with the new wiring and Lord knows I’m thrilled to have an insulated room in the house, my final decorative touches were very rushed. I slapped up new paint and quickly installed a snap-together, laminate floating floor system. I originally wanted carpeting or hardwood but it is just too expensive right now. And after all was said and done, I hauled in our junky, second-hand furniture and settled for that.

Fast-forward several years. Since a section of the room is my little office, that area of the living room is a disaster. Papers and books and computer equipment and other things are scattered everywhere. I’ve expanded and have had no where to put my reams and reams of books that I use for my writing, nor do I have any storage options for all my computer equipment and things I review. The room is always a mess, always disorganized, never a pleasant place to sit.

So I decided to redecorate it. Well– to decorate it!

Living Room before 2

Painting is easy. Some of the other projects are new. I’m going to try my hand at furniture by making an enormous built-in bookcase along a wall. I’m going to use unfinished stock cabinets (they sell very cheaply), stain them myself, and use them as the base for a plywood system of shelves. Everything will be secured to the wall. I hope to give the room that “English library” look. I also hope that a 12 foot wall, 9 feet high will be able to house my very extensive collection of old and new books. I have boxes and boxes of them that have been in storage for decades because I’ve had no place to keep them.

I also have to create a faux chimney box. It’s not for a chimney, it’s for a gas fireplace insert that we are saving up for. I’m trying to plan for the future by making it now, so I won’t have to cover everything in sheets again! I’ll create my own wooden mantelpiece from stock wood, too.

And finally, I’m sewing some new curtains. I’m using this project to teach my daughter how to use the sewing machine, so next time I need curtains, she can sew them. šŸ˜‰

So I’ll be pretty busy for the next two weeks. The kids are going to do a lot of the grunt work (staining, patching holes in the walls, etc). They already primed the living room trim so we can start painting tomorrow. Thank God the heat has abated, we were going in slow motion for a while, like fish in a murky pond.

Living Room before 1

It will be very good to have this room finally and completely done. I’m going to work hard and create an organized work station for all my stuff, too. I can’t wait until it’s done!

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Summertime Slump

July 27, 2012



Oh it’s not that we’ve been lazy… not exactly…. it’s just that it’s been too hot and humid to do much renovation work. I had such grand plans once July hit. I can’t believe all we’ve done in get the new windows installed. Lack of rain and an explosion in the deer population ruined the garden. I haven’t even finished sewing curtains or installed the bookshelves or finished installing drywall in the kitchen closet… I’ve been very busy with work, though. I was accepted for a special project for a few days, and was paid well for that. A few tourist places want us to visit, and I have a ton of reviews to write including one on pet pheromone diffusers. I’m eager to see how that diffuser thing works. I have to leaves it plugged in for 30 days to see any results. Livvy’s been cranky and jumpy lately — I don’t think she likes all the noise from the fans — so we’ll see if this gadget helps any.

Over all, it’s been a quiet summer so far. I suppose we’ll get going on the renovation projects in August or maybe September when it’s cooler. It’s just too hot and miserable to wrangle with drywall and dust right now.

How has your summer been?

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How to Build a Walkway Using a Concrete Paver Mold

June 22, 2012


You can spend thousands of dollars and hire a professional contractor to pour your walkway or install commercially made concrete pavers, or you can use Quikrete’s Walkmaker form or some other type of form. Walkway with Stones The Walkmaker, constructed of a durable plastic material, greatly simplifies the construction of a concrete walkway and produces exceptional results. For a customized look, purchase powdered cement coloring to add to the concrete mixture. Here’s how we made our lovely walkway with the mold.

Stuff You Need:
Paver Mold- we used Quikrete’s Walkmaker
Crack-resistant concrete
Flat-bladed spade
Hand tamper
Powdered cement coloring
Measuring cup
Trowel or shovel

Step 1

Determine the amount of concrete material needed for the project. Quikrete recommends one 80-pound bag of concrete for every 2 feet of walkway.

Step 2

Measure the walkway area and remove the sod with the spade. You can lay the pavers directly onto the ground, but for best results Quikrete recommends that you remove 2 to 4 inches of soil and pour gravel into the trench. Tamp the gravel so that it is level and compacted.

Bust Sod

Step 3

Pour a bag of concrete into the wheelbarrow. Remove approximately 2 cups of dry mix and set it aside. Add the powdered coloring to the dry concrete mix and stir well with a hoe.

Step 4

Fill the bucket with approximately 3 pints water. Slowly pour half the water into one part of the wheelbarrow. With the hoe, rake the dry concrete into the pool of water, mixing until all the water is absorbed.

Mixing Concrete

Step 5

Add another 2 to 3 pints of water to the bucket, and pour the water into the concrete mix. Rake and chop the concrete into the water until the water is absorbed. The mixture should have the consistency of mud. When you chop the mixture with the hoe, the mixture should stay in place. If the mixture is too crumbly or stiff, add more water. If the mixture is too soupy, add some of the dry concrete mix you have set aside, and mix well.

Step 6

Place the Walkmaker form at one end of the walkway. Shovel or trowel the concrete into the form, patting down the mix to ensure that it fills the corners and cavities of the mold.

Filling Form

Step 7

Lift the form straight up so it does not snag on and damage the wet concrete pavers. Hose off the form immediately to prevent the concrete mix from hardening.

Lifting Form 2

Step 8

Repeat the process of mixing concrete, laying the form in the walkway and adding the mix to the form until the walkway is complete. Allow the pavers to dry for at least 24 hours.

Step 9

Sprinkle cupfuls of Portland cement sand mix or jointing sand over the pavers. Spread the sand mix between the paver form lines with a broom so the mix completely fills the form lines.

Sweeping Sand Mix 3

Step 10

Mist the pavers with a garden hose, wetting the sand mix but not washing it out of the form lines. Allow to dry completely.

Spraying Water

Secret Garden Blooming

Notes and Tips

To make a curved walkway, reposition the Walkmaker form onto the wet concrete mix in the direction of the curve. Press the form down to form new paver lines. Smooth out the previous paver lines with the trowel.

To prevent the Walkmaker form from sticking to the wet concrete, lightly spray the form with water or very lightly with cooking oil.

To create a nonslip surface, lightly brush over the wet pavers with a stiff broom. The broom will create small ridges on the paver surface.

To allow the concrete to properly cure, choose an overcast day when the temperature will not drop before 50 degrees and no rain is expected within 24 hours. If it does rain, cover unstained concrete pavers with plastic sheeting. In an area with sun, cover the concrete pavers with plastic sheeting or burlap to prevent the concrete from drying too quickly. Lightly moisten the burlap periodically when the material becomes too dry.

Do not cover stained concrete with plastic sheeting or burlap, as they may cause discoloration. Apply Quikrete Concrete Sealer to the surface of the concrete instead.

Concrete is caustic. Do not breathe in concrete dust. If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves while handling concrete.

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2012 Projects

June 12, 2012


Well, I broke the latest projects list to the family today. They didn’t cry or scream. As a matter of fact, they took it very calmly. Because I am bribing them this year. šŸ˜€ OK OK, it’s not exactly bribing– more like paying. It won’t be much but at least it will be something. And best part is that I won’t have to do it all!

This will be the year that we finish up to loose ends, that we complete the little things left undone or things that need patching. For one, my front porch is sinking into the ground. The previous owners just plunked the porch foundation posts on cinder blocks, and YEAH. NO. It’s starting to make me nervous. Since the house is a balloon frame house, a sagging porch can pull the wall studs out of kilter so bad that the floor joists pop out of their tenons. That would be…. bad. With all the rain we’ve had for the past decade, the porch is definitely sagging and I am having trouble sleeping at night. Time to jack up the porch, dig some 2-foot deep holes, and install concrete piers. This is perhaps our biggest project for the year.

Our second project will be to fix the back porch. I still never sided around the kitchen window that I installed in 2010. The house wrap tar paper has held up well (and we sealed all gaps and cracks that summer), but hello, we can’t have no siding there. We’ve decided to rip off all the siding on the entire wall there and replace it with wood clapboard. I got a quote on vinyl siding, which would cost us more that what we bought the house for! :-O

Window Workers

It's be fun siding this area of the house. NOT

Anyway, I have to rip off the back porch (it was never installed properly anyway), rip off the siding, replace the siding, and build a new back porch. I intend to enclose it to create a mud room. Currently, when the gang charges into the house with their muddy boots, they drop right into my new kitchen. That must end.

Then of course, like any renovator worth her weight in salt, I have a myriad of unfinished projects! We have to install drywall in out kitchen “cubby” and install shelving in there. The boys will do that project and get paid for it.


Unfinished kitchen shelving.


Then there’s the small bench, or window seat, in the kitchen. I’ll pay the boys to do that, too.

And finally, there’s the electric. There’s still only partial electric in the bathroom and there’s a problem with another circuit. Both require me going into the attic. Oh Lord. I HATE the attic.


Nooooooooooooo !!

So that’s my summer. LOL. Be praying for me, I have 3 to 4 months to do it all!!

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Repair Man

June 6, 2012


All I wanted was for him to check the vacuum cleaner belt.


I suppose every family has one? The kid who loves to take stuff apart just to “see how it works.” He disassembled the ENTIRE vacuum. I tried to refrain from nagging and worrying. I think it’s terrific that he likes to tinker. He’s the one who now installs and assembles all my furniture, computers, and etc. I used to do all that stuff, for years… it’s So good to have a break from it all!

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I’ll Remember This

April 21, 2012


white trash repairs - 21st Century CD Cases

Well, well. Learn something new every day. LOL

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