Living Room


For some reason lately I’ve been kind of fascinated by DIY clocks. I think it’s because I couldn’t find a clock in a store that I liked, and I really wanted one because when you spend all day at home like I have been (I don’t want to talk about it), it’s easy for time to get away from you. So I made this one.

I started out looking around online, and I really liked this one, and these two, and this one. But when I saw a pack of those pre-dyed popsicle sticks for $2 in the craft store, I knew they were for me!

Here are the materials for this project:

  • Ikea Rusch clock
  • Dyed popsicle sticks
  • Cardboard craft box (optional)
  • Sticky tack for affixing to the wall

Step 1: Deconstruct the clock. All you need is the mechanism and hands. (Alternatively, you can buy a clock mechanism.)

Step 2: Poke a hole in the lid of a cardboard box (these happened to fit perfectly, but you could also just use a piece of cardstock or some other creative way to cover up the black plastic mechanism- or just not worry about it). Stick the doo-hickey through the hole (um…) and then replace the clock hands on the doo-hickey.

Step 3: Play around with different arrangements.

I settled on the yellow, blue, and green.

Step 4:Stick it all to the wall with sticky tack, using the original clock face as a guide.

Or, if you’re nerdy, use math.

Step 5: Enjoy knowing what time it is!

Admittedly, it’s a little “kiddy” or maybe even modern for me. It might go better in a kids’ room or a nursery. But it was so easy to make, and would be so easy to take down, that for now it will stay in our wannabe grown up apartment.

It is HOT in our house.

Okay, so I know that we’re major wimps because we’re not experiencing the heat wave that’s going on in the south, but at least most people down there (maybe?) have air conditioning. We have no respite (except when I go to work and they keep the temperature at a level that requires me to wear a sweater and moon boots).

Why don’t we have cooling? Well, here’s why.

A few months ago, we were chatting with our across-the-street-and-down-a-ways neighbors, and we looked at our house from theirs. We saw a horrifying sight: our old swamp cooler, clinging for dear life on its precarious rotting wood support, looking mighty disgusting. Of course we always knew it was there, but seeing it from our nice neighbors’ view gave us a twinge of guilt for having such a ghetto piece of garbage hanging on the side of the house.

And besides that, I have always hated how one of the neat old windows on either side of the fireplace had been demolished and replaced with a big ugly vent.

And besides that, it didn’t really work properly for a variety of reasons, so we rarely bothered to use it.

So, we did something about it. We ripped ‘er off.

We were left with a gaping hole, which we covered with plastic and have embarrassingly been living with all summer:

This blogger has no pride.

Anyhoo, our plan is to actually make two new matching windows. I know I know, we’re crazy- but you can’t buy them new like this anymore, with just a simple hinge and latch:

We may also hunt some down from a salvage place, but finding two windows that match and are the correct size is probably nearly impossible.

But back to the problem at hand: that is, the problem that our house is consistently 82-84 degrees. Below are some practical tips for if you find yourself without a cooling system for a period of time, or if you’d like to just minimize your use of your cooling system.

Open the windows at night. At least in Utah, it cools off at night (I know that in some places such as Oklahoma, it never cools off and if that is the case where you live, I’m deeply sorry.) Open a couple to create cross-flow. We open the little “fireplace window” in the living room and the window in our bedroom, and even though it seems like a convoluted path, you can actually feel a surprising amount of air movement in the bedroom. A fan in front of a window will help even more.

Close the windows and blinds during the day. I used to think that you should leave the windows open as much as possible, but the simple fact is that if it’s 97 degrees outside, you want to keep that air out. Closing the blinds keeps out sunlight.

The idea with the above two tips is to bring cool night air in and trap it there as long as possible during the day.

Realize that in summer, you are probably going to be a little hot. One thing that has always been amusing to me is how inflexible we as a first-world society have become. Even if it’s over 100 degrees outside, we want to be cool- even chilly- inside! I know we’ve all heard this before, but trade the jeans for shorts and lose a layer, and don’t be afraid to be just a titch uncomfortable. Drink some ice water! My brother has a swamp cooler, and he turns it on just enough to “take the edge off”. Well done, Jonny.

On nights where the temperature shows no mercy and stays hot, use water (nature’s coolant) to cool off. I had to laugh when I saw this video. It could be called “Orangutan cools off like Amanda and Stan”.

At our house wet bandanas abound. Stan loves to throw them on me when I’m not looking, which always startles me and nearly results in him getting a swift punch in the face, but then it feels soooo good. Tying one around your neck works well too, since there is a lot of blood supply close to the skin there. (It’s the same principle as keeping your neck warm with a scarf in winter.) I’ve also been known to use a wet bandana the same way you would a blanket when going to bed.

Use a good old fashioned fan. Sometimes I have to do my makeup while sitting in front of a fan just so my face will stop sweating long enough. Fun, right?

Hang out in shady areas. I’m sorry if these tips seem a little “duh”, but it really did take me a while to notice that our east-facing patio is just about the most pleasant place to be in the late afternoon as the sun is setting to the west.

And for the record, we have been trying to get a new swamp cooler all summer. We want one on the roof so that none of our windows are blocked, and no one seems to want to install one for us. One place even let us pay for a bid (normally we wouldn’t pay for a bid but we were getting desperate), sent a guy out who said he could do it no problem, and then called ten days later to say that no, they actually can’t do new installations- only replacements- and they were not apologetic in the slightest for leading us on. It was Lowe’s in case you’re wondering. (Can you hear me Lowe’s? I’m disappointed!)

I may write another post about why we’re going with a swamp cooler (also known as evaporative cooler) over central air conditioning, but for now I think I’ve rambled enough. Stay cool and stay in school.

Stan is slowly starting to get his stuff moved into my (almost our) house. Not that he has a ton of stuff… the man is practically a snail. (Get it? Because he could carry his home on his back. That metaphor was totally sub-par.)

But still, a stack of books here, a bikeĀ  there, it’s nice to get a head-start. Especially since his lease is up two days after our wedding, at which time we’ll be sunning ourselves in Mexico. And no, he can’t move in beforehand. :-D

We found a little nook for his bookshelf and filled it with our most interesting books, since it’s out in the living room and we want people to be impressed by our unique and though-provoking reading selection.

You’ll also notice that Stan swapped out the prints in those frames for some instant DIY pressed flower art with flowers from our yard (snow in summer). They haven’t molded yet, and they’re a nice change for spring.

Anecdote: See that ceramic pot? That appeared on my porch one day, out of nowhere. Inside was a paper booklet of the Gospel of John. It’s definitely a hand-thrown pot. Any ideas? Is there a Christian group out there that gives away handmade pots with various Gospels inside? It’s a cool pot and a handy way to take some Biblical reading on the go, so I’m not complaining- just curious.

In another corner, I sold the cute little desk that was here.

(See what it looked like here.)

I loved that desk, but all it did was acquire crap and was never used as an actual desk. It went to a little girl who will hopefully do lots of homework and art projects on it. What we really need is something we can put Stan’s sweet 70′s stereo and speaker on. He’s not convinced this is the best spot for a stereo, but I am. :) Maybe a credenza? A sideboard? Another piece of furniture that no one besides house bloggers knows about?

It’s exciting to see my house start to fill up with his stuff, and to know I don’t need to return anything to his house (Staaaan that cookbook has been sitting here waiting for you to take it home for weeks!). Plus now I can really start to hold him accountable for not putting stuff away.

I have some more stuff to say about how excited I am to marry this man and start the next chapter of our lives together, and how I’m excited to get to do his laundry (NOT! lol) but my brain is drained. But for serious, I love this guy. He makes the stress of the wedding worth it.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away (or rather in a house that happens to be the one in which I live) I built a table. I built it in the scary serial killer room in my basement.

I even stained and finished this table, and it was beautiful. Then it continued to sit in my scary basement for a number of weeks. All because I don’t own a hole saw.

But then one day, I whined enough that Stan went and got the table, and drilled a big ol hole in the back of it with his half-inch drill bit. Then he cut the hole bigger with a hand saw. Then he filed the edges until they were somewhat smooth. The hole didn’t look terribly pretty, but it served its purpose of being an opening for cords to run through.

Then we put the table in the living room and put the TV and DVD player on it! (And the bunny ears, because I’m awesome like that.)

And it looked like this:

I actually like the way it looks better like this:

but a) then I wouldn’t have anywhere to put my feet and set my drink, and b) we can’t block that heat grate. So the top option is how it will stay, but maybe with a classier DVD storage system. Yes, that is all the DVDs I own. Actually, a bunch of those are borrowed, so that’s more DVDs than I own. Hooray Netflix!

Here’s a shot of the whole room. I chose that particular console table because of its slim design (thank you Ana White), which really does make a difference in a room this tiny.

Here’s the old coffee table I was using before for comparison:

Oh and I got a new mirror. It was cheap and round and I liked it.

And just for fun, here’s a shot from pre-new floors and rug, pre- new flat screen TV, and pre- DSLR photography:

The table has some flaws (I need some more practice with stainable, or should I say “stainable” wood filler) and yes it was like the easiest plan I found, but I am still very proud of it. I built that!!! That’s what I plan on yelling to everyone who comes to my house from now on while pointing at it and jumping up and down.

I know- who goes out and buys a rug for their dog? Me, that’s who. I’ll tell you why in a sec.

I was actually quite enjoying my rug-less living room. It was easy to clean, and the tiny room didn’t really need to be “cozied up” by a rug.

What does Blanche have to do with this? Well, she has a problem. It’s surely in the DSM IV- is there a term for “scared of hard floors that make noise when my toenails click on them”? No? Well then she’s just special.

Observe:

And somehow walking backwards makes it less scary? Weirdo. (Sorry about the annoying voice- I was trying to be extra encouraging.)

So anyway, I’d be hanging out in the living room, and I’d hear this pathetic low growl coming from the end of the hallway. She would stand there on the edge of the hard floor as if she were about to dip her toe into hot lava. She desperately wanted to hang out with me (who doesn’t?) but not bad enough to brave the terrifying clicky floors.

So I bought this jute beauty from World Market, and Blanche has been a much happier dog since.

She even hangs out in the living room now.

I’ll admit that the rug was kind of a hasty purchase, so it wasn’t my best bargain. But I really liked it. I liked it!

And Blanche no longer whines on the edge of the lava/laminate floor while I’m trying to watch Arrested Development on Netflix so it’s a win-win.

Today, whether you like it or not, you’re going to get a peek into the scary abyss known as my basement. I think I’ve shown you pieces before so hopefully you’re not too traumatized. After the laundry room you can see where I’m storing a whole kitchen worth of cabinets (more on that later).

See that door behind my old TV? I’m pretty sure that previous owners either grew pot or hacked up bodies in there.

But today while admiring the ancient unidentified liquid running down the walls and humming the Psycho theme, I decided to make that room my workshop so I could build awesome stuff Ana White style. I mean sure, it’s scary as hell, but it has a decent workbench and good light, and lots of [poorly wired] outlets.

My awesome brothers gave me a saw for my birthday!

I built Ana’s Easiest Rustic Modern Console Table EVER which kind of mocks me with its claims of being so easy. Kind of like my friend Carrie going skiing and being mocked by a bunny hill called “Dipsy Doodle” as she does the pizza wedge all the way down (love you Carrie!). But really, there couldn’t possibly be an easier piece of furniture to build, when it comes to building furniture and furniture building.

She’s nothing fancy, but I’m hoping she’ll look mighty pretty after I’ve sanded and stained her and put her in her home (yet to be disclosed, because I’m annoying).

A couple things I learned while building my first piece of furniture:

  • Those pine boards are called “1×12″ boards. That does not mean that that is the exact measurement; the “1″ is actually a “3/4″. Measure everything.
  • Measure everything again.
  • Countersink bit = win.
  • Just because you’re screwing together square boards doesn’t mean it’ll end up square. I had to “cheat” it a little bit and have Stan hold it in place with his super human strength while I screwed it the way I wanted it, which made me mad because I wanted to do it ALL BY MYSELF and then since he was already down there he had to restrain himself to not take over my project. I know you wanted to, honey buns.
  • Clamps are your friend for holding stuff where you want it when you’re by yourself.
  • Don’t forget to put the glue on before you screw it together. But if you forget the glue on like one spot it might be okay (I hope).
  • Try to avoid knots- they are really hard and they like to crack when drilled into. Or just go slowly.

Now that I have my very own dream workshop, hopefully it won’t be too hard for me to get down there and sand and finish the dang thing within a reasonable amount of time. Stay tuned!

…and by “new”, I mean “was built or updated after electricity became a standard feature”… then you probably take certain things for granted. Like for instance, you come home with your arms full of groceries, you unlock the door, and you switch on a light that illuminates your path safely to the kitchen. You do not come home with your arms full of groceries, unlock the door, and trip over your cat and kick several pairs of shoes across the room because you can’t see anything until you reach a switch halfway across the house.

If you can’t tell, I get the latter experience. But this weekend, that all began to change.

See, the only switch by the front door was for the porch light.

But just like Ariel, I wanted more.

I wanted to be able to switch on a light inside my house the instant I walked in the door. Is that so much to ask? This would normally be a piece of cake to take care of, but my house is a double brick walled beauty. Brick is hard. Brick must be dealt with using big, powerful tools, like angle grinders and frightening looking drills.

Not my piddly $30 Harbor Fart drill. After considering our options (one being a low-voltage impulse relay system- basically running teeny wires discreetly next to the trim, that when switched, tell the bigger wires to turn on the lights) we (and I use the term “we” loosely) decided to dig a trench in the plaster and brick, lay some conduit in there, and thread solid wires through there (not romex, because romex is big and our conduit was only like an inch around or something).

is bigger than

Since I wanted four switches- one for the dining room chandelier, one for the living room, one for the porch light, and one for a switched exterior outlet (for Christmas lights, hence the switch, but also for other yard tools) there was just not enough space to run all that romex. I do not really understand how it works, but somehow, you can get away with using the little single wires rather than the triple-wired romex for each switch. I just nod my head.

Manly Stanley used a turquoise colored pencil to draw where we should dig the trench. He’s so artistic.

Then, we trenched that SOB. We trenched it good.

The jolt at :06 was when a large number of sparks flew onto my hand. Ouchie. You can see that we’d do some grinding, then some chiseling. Not the first time I’ve chiseled some stuff.

Here it is, ready for conduit:

Side note: Did you spot the conduit that’s already there? (If not, are you blind?) We had a brief moment of excitement that we could possibly use that instead of trenching for some new stuff, but alas we could not get the old wires out. Ah well.

Here’s Stan’s dad, feeding the pretty blue new conduit up into the attic:

We color-coded the wires before fishing them up through the conduit.

It’s… beautiful!

Next up was hiding the conduit, using some Fix-All and some plain ol’ brick mortar, since we’d knocked about one too many bricks loose and wanted to provide a little more structural support.

Here’s Stan hiding the evidence:

And here’s how it looks right at this very moment:

That’s some intense mortar, huh? Hey, we didn’t want the wall to collapse. And no one should be needing to fuss around with the 4-gang box anytime soon- the conduit offers the flexibility to fish wires in and out if need be.

All that’s left to do now is patch and finish the mess, hook up the switches, and do some more stuff in the attic (I am usually not very involved in that part, so I’m not sure exactly what.) Then, my friends, I can walk in the house and flip on a switch to illuminate my way straight to the fridge. Mmm… leftover Indian food.

Once we had all the conduit buried and the wires run, I turned to Stan and said “It’s sick to think how easy this would have been if we were dealing with sheetrock, isn’t it?” Seriously, the three of us spent about 4 hours on this. If it were a sheetrock wall, it would have taken… oh, ten minutes? But ah, the joys of living in an old house.

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