Category Archives: How To

DIY Tree Ring & Herb Garden

So, we had all these pavers from around the yard that we’ve been pulling out (our yard looks like hell, overall, full disclosure) and I decided I need to make a tree ring with them around the tree closest to our house. The roots were well above ground and I didn’t think it looked that great in all honesty.

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A super fast overview for the tl;dr crowd. Blog-TreeRing1

I started out by taking a shovel and digging a rough hole around the base of the tree. This was fairly quick and easy and I was all proud of myself. blog-treering2

I set pavers all around it to rough-in how many I would need. I should have been more careful so I didn’t have to end up chopping any pavers in half but I wasn’t so, in the end, Dale has to use chisel to knock some of the pavers down (also we didn’t want to hurt the roots of the tree so the first row of pavers were chipped out on the bottom in places to accommodate the tree roots). blog-treewring3

Here’s an overview of the first phase, which was the hardest part by far (actually, the hardest part was digging the pavers out of the ground from all over other parts of the lawn and picking them up and putting them in place–it was like a challenge on The Biggest Loser and I won). blow-treering3

Dale and Bela were a big help! Dale helped me by providing me with a long level that allowed me to level the first row of pavers (so I could dig deeper into the ground for some, shore up others, depending on what was needed). Dale did all the chipping of pavers to ensure they fit around the tree roots. Bela was there for moral support.blog-treering4

We were basically sweaty and miserable and this project was kinda hard? Dale kept me going, tho. You can see how dirty the pavers are as I ran out and needed to dig more out of the ground from around the yard, lifting two at a time and bringing them over to the ring. blog-tree ring5

We went with 3 rows of stone. Dale filled in a couple of gaps and then we had to go buy the dirt to fill it in.
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I was pretty pleased with the result and decided to turn the tree ring into an herb garden–it’s quick and easy access next to our back door makes it the perfect place to snag fresh herbs.

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The herbs grew like gangbusters within a couple of weeks! See that giant hole? That’s where some of the pavers were. It’s filled in with dirt but we still have a LONG way to go on the yard!

(In the background you can see our raised garden beds and Dale’s addition: a topper for the strawberry patch. I’ll post about that piece soon).

My First Upholstered Chair!

For the tl; dr crowd here’s the shorthand on my first upholstered chair project:

I have always wanted to learn to do basic upholstery projects so I bought this chair last year with good intentions and little free time:

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I liked the lines, and I didn’t even mind the slipper pink fabric and gold trim. I mean, I love tacky stuff, right? But this was cheap and in bad shape so I didn’t care if I messed it up. It was like $7 at an estate sale.
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Shoddy paint job? Eh, I knew I wasn’t going to keep it.

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So I stripped it, carefully keeping the interior layers (I probably put it back together wrong anyway because I’m clueless). And then I lightly sanded it. I probably could have done a better job sanding but I was more interested in the fabric in all honesty.
IMG_1854Then I spray painted the chair black.

And then the chair sat in the basement for about six months collecting broken dreams. I thought I was going to do double welting as the trim because that’s how it came to me. So I felt like I needed to learn how to make welting. That’s a long side project/story that is pointless here because, after I got going? I realized I’d rather just have gimp trim!

So here’s what I did:

IMG_2846Dale set me up with an awesome work station in the garage–on a table he built that he hasn’t given me pictures of. He’s done a bunch of impressive projects that I can’t show you until I get pics from him.

I used a traditional heavy duty stapler and that seriously and totally SUCKED. I really need an upholstery stapler if I plan to get serious about these projects going forward! It also kinda ruined the chair (which was my fault and nobody can really tell unless I point it out but still). Get a real upholstery stapler. That’s my biggest piece of advice for newbies like myself.

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Trying to position the pattern within the frame of the chair was a challenge. I pinned it first and then stapled. IMG_2852

And THEN I trimmed the fabric. Probably a terrible idea. Probably destroyed the cutting tools I used. Live and learn, eh? Top pinned

Put the existing padding in just as it had been before (that was actually in great shape).  And pinned the front to get my staple on. Ugh, my hands were tired!

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You can see some of my shoddier attempts at cutting the fabric here. I literally have no idea how I should have done it. I’m going to have to do more reading next time. Heh. I also winged it with folding the fabric over the corners. The book I had didn’t address that style. IMG_2859

Finally, I got to the part that I’m good at: using my glue gun! I pinned the gimp (that’s the edging) all along the fabric to cover up all my most egregious screw-ups. Then I used my hot glue gun to glue down several inches at a time, careful to shape the gimp as I moved around the chair. IMG_2861

I cut smaller pieces and glued them down around the edges of the chair.IMG_2863

Ta da! I felt pretty impressed with myself all things considered. IMG_2864

And a pic of the back, of course. IMG_2865

And, in the interest of full disclosure? I screwed up a bit, too, but nobody noticed until I pointed it out to them. IMG_2872This is the first step in our amazing bedroom makeover (that is nowhere near happening yet). But I like it!

Easy Peppermint Bark–A Cheater’s Recipe

I’m not much of a baker or much of a cook and my only real food skills involve slapping together cheese platters and charcuterie.

SO! My one holiday baking concession is making Chocolate and Peppermint Bark. Of course, it’s a total cheat! So here’s what I do:

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Ingredients:

Step1-Canes

Step 1: Put a bunch of candy canes in a plastic ziplock bag and smash them to bits with a meat tenderizer. My father-in-law likes the pieces to be small. So I smash like mad.

Step2--ChocolateMelts

Once I’m done pulverizing the candy, I start in with the melting. I heat in 30-second increments until the melts get melty!Step3-PourMelted

I pour the melted chocolate onto a cookie pan lined with either parchment or wax paper. Step4-Spread

I use a silicone spatula to spread it out toward the edges of the pan.

Step5-TapOut

I tap the pan on the counter to level out the chocolate. Then I leave it to set. You’ll know the candy is set when it’s no longer shiny.

Step6-WhiteChocolate

Once it’s dry, I turn to the white candy melts. These take a little bit longer to melt, in my experience. Step7-PourWhiteChocandSpread

Once the white is melted, I pour it right onto the Dark Cocoa.

Step8--spread

Using a spatula, I spread the white over the dark chocolate, leaving a little dark chocolate border. Step9-SPRINKLES

Next up: SPRINKLES. These are optional! But I like the texture and color they add. Immediately after I spread the white chocolate I tap the pan a couple of times and then add sprinkles. Step10-CandyCaneSprinkles

After the sprinkles, I take a big spoon and sprinkle the peppermint shards onto the still-wet white chocolate.

Step11-done

Voila! I also tap the pan a couple of times and use the back of the spoon to push down any pieces that look like they are not taking to the white chocolate. Step12-packaged

I let the white chocolate firm up a little and then use a pizza cutter to slice it into strips. Once it’s set, I put it in the containers. This year, I put the slices between wax paper and stacked them into a plastic holiday-themed take-out container. Because candy melts can go, well, melty, you need to have parchment or wax paper between the layers.

That’s it!

Office chandelier.

Office Chandelier and Rewiring Project

So this might be a bit technical. If you’re just in it for the pretty, check out this image of the finished product: My new office chandelier!

Office chandelier.

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Those are flowers Dale gave me for my birthday that I LOVED. And the print was a Christmas present from etsy! Dale added the hooks for me and I use them for my laptop bags and other stuff.

How we got it to work with the light switch was a bit of a challenge.

How to Rewire a Room

Rewire1We had wire where the ceiling fan used to be. So, for those who would like to know how to rewire a room, instruction are as follows:

Original_Wiring

Above is a simple explanation of what we started with. Our house did not come with lights connected to a light switch when it comes to the bedrooms so we will have to do this in each of the bedrooms as we remodel.

Here’s Dale’s explanation of the illustration:

The inverted triangle represents “ground” in an electrical circuit. In reality ground is a white wire that runs back to the fuse box, completing the circuit. For visual simplicity it is represented as an inverted triangle.

The hot (black) wire runs from the fuse box to a junction in the closet, from there it’s split four ways:

  • Closet light
  • Ceiling fan (soon to be chandelier!)
  • Light switch (which sends power via an orange wire to 1/2 of outlet 1
  • second half of of Outlet 1, then outlets 2 & 3

This all worked fine if we wanted a ceiling fan operating from a pull string and a lamp plugged into a wall outlet. We didn’t want that. We wanted to have a chandelier controlled by the wall switch.

This illustration shows you what we did:

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  • The wire feeding the fan was disconnected from the “hot” wire at the junction box.
  • The orange wire between the switch and 1/2 of outlet 1 was disconnected at both ends and capped.
  • A new wire (yellow) was fed from the junction box to the switch.
  • The yellow wire connects to the switch and is tied to the wire feeding the ceiling light.
  • Outlet 1 has been replaced and now functions like outlets 2 & 3.

Here’s a quick rundown of how we did it:

WE TURNED THE ELECTRICITY OFF. Just to make that clear! And we hooked up the new wires in exactly the same places and in the same ways as the old wires. We were not reinventing anything.

Tools Used:

  • cable snake
  • wire pulling lubricant
  • yellow electrical wire
  • chandelier from Ikea

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We pulled the closet light down to access the wires since it serves as the junction box for the room. We then pulled the wires out at the switch itself: rewire4We tried a couple of methods for feeding the wire but ended up using a cable snake to pull the new wiring.

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The cable snake worked well and we also used lubricant for the wire (it really helped).

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We pushed the cable snake into the switch box end and it came out in the closet, at the junction box. We hooked the new yellow wire onto the cable snake and pulled it through the ceiling to the light switch:

Rewire7And there it is! We felt quite triumphant when it came through. Ha! You can also see in this photo that the orange wire was still attached to the light switch.

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Next we had to open up outlet 1.

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And the orange wire was also attached to outlet 1.

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We capped the orange wire. We could have pulled it out entirely but we figured if, for whatever reason, we wanted to reconfigure in the future we might as well make it easier on ourselves. Rewire12

We capped the orange wire at the light switch and tucked it in the wall. Then we screwed the yellow wire where the orange wire had been. And we also attached the yellow wire to the appropriate spot in the junction box. Voila! Rewire14

Then Dale followed the directions for installing the little chandelier as you would any light fixture.

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And carefully disentangled the cardboard and plastic once it was reasonably in place. Rewire16

And that’s how adorable it looks! Can you stand it? Because I can’t! I LOVE IT.