When Childless People Babysit

Once in awhile, when my friend Myrtle (this is her not-real-name name) has decidedly had far too much to drink, she comes up with a plan for me to watch her children.  There are three of them.  One, three and five.  I don’t have any mini humans of my own, so for me, moments like these are much more exciting than they should ever be.  Or so I’ve been told. In response to Myrtle’s plan I tell her, “YES!  I’m hiding all of my pills right now. But hey, are you sure though?  I mean, the only thing I know about childcare, I’ve learned from observing rabid rhesus monkeys”.  She takes a few seconds to think this over and goes, “You know, that’s perfect!  I’ll drop em off at three!”.

Occasionally watching Myrtle’s three children isn’t really babysitting.  It’s more like entertaining miniature mental patients.  One minute, they’re laughing at your funny faces and the next?  They’re screaming bloody murder, because they don’t like the way you’ve eyeballed their Honey Nut Cheerios for the past two hours.  Children are unpredictable. They are crafty.  They climb bookcases like primates in the jungle.  They are everything I strive to be in life.  I was super excited.  It’s not everyday that you get to entertain three children without the aid of alcohol.  Here are some observations I’ve made during my recent stint in the Rent-Three-Kids-Overnight forum.

Stickers are like the drug of choice for children.  Kids will do almost anything for a piece of pre-cut, sticky backed paper.  Spring for the good stuff though.  Just like magpies, children can’t resist the sparkle of glitter and foil.  Remember, half price stickers mean half ass work.  Kids brush their teeth for a Winnie The Pooh glitter sticker.  They poop without flushing for clearance bin smiley face stickers.

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After spending hours trying to baby proof my home, I finally gave up and handed out helmets to each child once they entered the doors.

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If a child can speak, they can spell.  This probably isn’t true outside of my own head.  But I figured the girls were pounding away at my typewriter already, so I might as well have them type out Thank You letters.  They usually started off with “dhaiu8re” and ended with “jdhfaiuh8888!23″.  It’s okay. People will just think I was drunk when typing out those Thank You notes.  Even better.

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Children seem to eat two things: whatever you’re not serving and sliced bread.  I made the mistake of giving them Macrina Bakery’s olivetta bread.  They poked at the green stuff and asked what it was.  “Those are olives.  They taste much better in drinks but this isn’t too shabby either”, I informed them.  They asked if I had plain sliced bread.  I told them, “No. Adults can’t buy those until they have kids.  For now, us childless couples have to make do with artisan bread”.  I made a compromise and we had cake pops and oranges for lunch instead.  Served with a flight of milk for them.  Cow’s, almond and soy milks.

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I’ve never believed in slipcovers until I saw three chocolate covered children make a beeline for my Thackeray sofa.  I decided that this would be a good time to introduce them to the “water park”.  Two minutes later, all three kids are standing in my bathroom telling me, “Um, this isn’t a water park”.  I turned on the bathtub faucet and said, “Yes, it is.  You park yourself in this tub, right here, and I turn on the water.  Water park.  And say, you know what will make your bubble bath even bubblier?  If you scrub the bathtub first.  Hold on, let me grab you my favorite toy, Mr. Scrub Brush”.

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If you ever have to watch children, invest in a spinning globe.  Children seem to be fascinated with the spinnability of a ball on an axis.  They asked me where the South Pole was.  I, in turn, asked them why.  They told me that’s where toys are made.  I said, “Oh, you want to know where toys are made?  Here, let me find China for you”.

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“Can we watch cartoons?” was a common question.  My common answer was, “Only if you can figure out how to turn it on, because I sure can’t.  Here are the remotes to the T.V., playstation, DVR and that other black box in back there.  If you can figure it out, then you can watch it.  If not, then there’s a view of ships rolling into Elliot Bay out the window”. They ended up watching the ships roll in for a few hours and telling each other that Bainbridge Island, in the distance, was Korea.

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Kids don’t want to play with their own toys.  They want to play with yours.  And when you don’t have any toys, you have to come up with a quick solution.  So, I gathered a bunch of rocks and told them this was the newest toy invented by Mattel called the Pocket Rock Its. So new, that they haven’t even released any commercials yet.  These rocks kept them entertained for two hours.  I have no idea how.  But I’m not one to question luck when it makes a guest appearance.

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Finally, send them off with a little gift to show them, “You’re not half bad when you’re not crying and thank you for not pooping in my houseplants”.

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5 Days, $500, 248 sf NYC Apt…Go!: Final Day (Finally)

I love New York City.  I just outed myself as a non-resident, in calling it by its full USPS-approved name, didn’t I?  How middle America of me.  Ok, “The City”.  It’s where rich people go to feel poor.  Where else could you spend $3,000/month to live in a closet masquerading as an apartment?  Every time I feel like as if I have too much change in my pockets, I book a flight to Manhattan.  Or take a trip to Whole Foods down the road. Whichever one is cheapest.  And let me tell you, Whole Foods does not often win.

Going from Seattle to The City is a jump in many regards, but the two cities have much more in common than you would think.  Anthony Bourdain compares Seattle to “Brooklyn before there was a Brooklyn”.  This is mostly true, but overlooks the fact that Seattleites, well…they’re really not that cool.  And that’s how they like it. The majority of the population here are like a Who’s Who of Doctor Who fans. My fiancé is one such enthusiast.  He’s planning on wearing a celery boutonniere to the wedding.  I’m just hoping that he doesn’t try to eat it halfway through the ceremony. But the main difference between the two cities is the clientele who shop at stores like Goodwill.  NYC has real homeless people in there, The Emerald City largely does not.  In Seattle, that homeless looking guy that you tossed a quarter to?  Probably the CEO of some software company. He’ll gladly take that penny too, and shove it into his fanny pack.  And that fanny pack was, more than likely, purchased at a thrift store during a half off sale.  Because seven figure incomes just doesn’t buy what it used to.

This is why, while in New York, I sometimes forget myself and strike up random conversations with legitimate homeless people, under the misconception that all of their hardwiring is intact.  For example, on the final day of redoing my sister’s apartment, I stepped into the Salvation Army on 3rd Avenue.  Spotting a gorgeous olive green leather chair, I immediately go over to lay my claim by sprawling myself over the armrests. Looking at the price tag, I mutter to myself, “$24.99?  That’s cheaper than stealing it.  Not that I would ever do that, just in case anyone is listening”.  A middle aged man sporting a shirt with more dirt than fabric hears me and spits out, “Ya got crack?  I ain’t gonna steal it from ya…if ya just give it to me”.  This was when I un-sprawled my limbs and made a quick exit, while telling myself not to make eye contact within the four walls of a Salvation Army in NYC ever again.  But it was a steal of a deal, and I went back later that night to buy the chair.  Here it is.

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I gave it a good wipe down with a wet towel.  Then I thought better of it and disinfected the entire thing with the strongest anti-bacterial cleanser I could lay my hands on.

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The gorgeous detailing in back is definitely more valuable than two Snack Packs and a Fruit Roll-Up in an elementary school playground.  It is a deal like this one that makes thrifting so rewarding.

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After Salvation Army, I hopped on over to its cleaner cousin, Goodwill.  There, I found these gallery frames for $7.99 and $10.99.  I initially intended to replace the print with something else, but ended up kinda sorta really liking the simple black and white photography.  A lot, actually.  I arranged them simply grouped on the living area wall.  I had two random wooden curtain rod ends, so I threw those up there as well.  I may or may not have used a level.

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Here is what the Living Room Area looked like “Before”.

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On Day 5, this is what the Living Room Area looked like “After”.  It’s the same area, just different view, I swear.

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Remember the random stuff I was hoarding from different thrift stores?  Giant thread spools large enough to keep two sweat shops in business until 2015?

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Here they are, living the retired good life as adornments to the coffee table I had refurbished a few days prior.

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And those plaster medallions?  I stuck them on the wall, then realized I measured incorrectly.  So, they were slightly off-center.  In my defense, it was after happy hour. Instead of rehanging everything, I re-centered the entire grouping by adding the wooden spool of leftover twine to the end.  I love it when laziness and creativity come together.

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There is an antique ironing board that my sister has, which we picked up in New Hampshire, years ago.  I really liked the board, but found the backside hardware much more interesting that its plain top.  So, I ended up displaying it, backside forward, as a stand alone piece in the living room area.

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In its previous life, the ironing board was hanging out with a rope ladder that we had found outside of a Babycakes NYC.  This was years before.  I cut the rope off of the wooden rungs and displayed it in a glass container.

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Sitting beside that rope display is the glass lamp base we found at Goodwill.  I placed my sister’s river rock collection under it.  Then I added a lampshade we found on clearance, from Bed Bath & Beyond, for $9.99.

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My sister, she is wonderful.  Absolutely darling.  But she’s not someone you would categorize as being of the overly emotional variety.  She avoids hugs at all cost.  Instead, she’ll give you a hand hug, if she likes you.  Fist shake if she doesn’t.  And handshake if she couldn’t care less.  For really special occasions like weddings and funerals, she will also add in a heartfelt thumb nuzzle with that hand hug. This is strangely comforting, I should probably add.  So, it came as quite a shock when I showed her the finished apartment and she was, how do you say it?  Teary eyed.  I asked her, “Um, this hasn’t ever happened before, so I’m not quite sure how to proceed…but um, are you…are you crying?”.  She quickly looked away and muttered, “No, my eyeballs are just sweating. Those corneas, you know how they just love to sweat.  Sometimes I wonder how many calories my pupils burn while dilating, alone.  Hey, you didn’t get rid of my giant 24 pound wheel of cheese, did you?”.  She told me that she loved what her sweaty pupils were seeing.

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A few days before, I had found a wine rack at Goodwill.  I then placed two terra cotta planters into the wine rack.  I tilted the planters to make it all fit in.  Then I dabbled on some Behr paint in “River Walk” to add some color.

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Home Depot had some plants.  I found one for $3.99 and another for $3.49.  I took them both home with me.  After paying, of course.  Here are the plants in their happy new home.

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I then placed the wine rack planter on top of the existing black table.  To change up the entire look, I took out the existing hardware and replaced it with our free Anthropologie dresser knobs.  She had saved those rings of wood from a wedding, years before.

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This table was placed at the foot of the bed.  Here is a view of the Bedroom Area “After” I had repainted the walls, added window treatments and redone the bookcases.

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It’s kind of a huge jump from the canvas-used-as-window-treatment genre of decor I had witnessed during Day 1.

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Another “After” view.

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Here is the homeless chair I had found tossed out onto the streets.  I rehabbed it with some spanking new fabric and then paired it up with a sexy side of revamped dresser. Let me know if my choice in adjectives is starting to creep you out.  I’m pretty sure it does.

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It’s a rather nice little seating area.  The entire chair/dresser combination is off to the sides a bit, so it’ll be of service to some of my sister’s more socially awkward guests.  If she ever decides to host a dinner party.  But then again, she takes after our dad.  And according to our mom, our dad “cooks, alright.  Your dad cooks from the couch”.  Maybe she’ll have a tuna can opening/eating party.

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This 248 sf area of my sister’s apartment was done in five sleepless, flu riddled days.  You may want to scroll through Day 1-4 to see the full renovation, including the kitchen and green dresser area.  I also managed to redo it for far less than our initial $500 budget. Here is the breakdown of the spending:

  • Paints: $51.88
  • Paint Supplies: $14.99
  • Furniture & Furniture Renovating Materials: $99.98
  • Wood: $11.82
  • Plants: $7.48
  • Fabric: $23.00
  • Wall Art: $27.37
  • Decor: $150
  • Miscellaneous: $48.24

Total Cost: $299.76 (Correction: Apparently, I can’t input numbers correctly on my calculator.  The total is $434.76.  Still under budget but much less money left over for drinks.  Thanks to people who pointed this out).

And a final look at the NYC apartment before I flew out the next morning.  It was time to go back to the unshaven and plaid wearing populace of Seattle.  A place where you can say things like, “Yeah, I’m going to have to decline that invite.  There’s a secret mushroom patch I’ve been foraging.  I kind of want to make a final harvest before chanterelle season is over.  I mean, my famous wild mushroom risotto isn’t going to make itself, girlfriend” and people nod with intimate understanding.  Image

The Key(board) To A Computer Nerd’s Heart

You know that Macklemore song in which he sings about a broken keyboard?  Well, not to sound like a total groupie or anything but yeah, I bought a broken keyboard.  For $7.99 at the Ballard location of Goodwill Seattle.  I don’t mind if you’re slightly oh-so jealous.

I am not a tech savvy person, by any stretch of the imagination.  My fiancé, on the other hand, is in the software industry and does stuff like write code/invent new software patents.  He is like the left brain to my right one.  Together, we form a somewhat complete brain, but missing many many (several) key elements.  He is a good man for putting up with all of my technical ineptitudes throughout the years.  Here are some prime examples:

  • I broke my laptop.  He asked me what I was looking for in a new one e.g. storage space, battery life, image quality.  I told him I wanted something with a big flat surface on top, so that I can close it up and use it as a lunch tray when noon rolls around.
  • I once came up with an idea for an invention.  I called it The Lunch Tray Laptop 2.1 EXL with dual cup holder attachments and silverware portals.  This idea did not make it much further than my brain.  The right one.
  • I used a Nokia flip phone for many years, until my sister told me it was embarrassing to see me navigate a phone with a missing #9 button.  I told her I was keeping my vintage phone for as long as it worked.  She bought me a Nexus.  It then sat in its box for a month until my vintage phone with the “perfectly aged peeling paint” crapped out.
  • I rarely watch T.V.  For the occasional dose of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, I call up my fiancé to turn it on.  My favorite T.V. show is the one in which I stare at my reflection off of a blank television set, for thirty minute increments at a time.  No reruns.

So what does a technically handicapped person do with a broken keyboard?  Valentine’s Day gift for my computer lover.  My plan was to make a picture frame composed of keyboard letters/numbers.  Here is what I rounded up: alcohol, broken keyboard, E-6000 glue and a flat faced picture frame.  I bought this frame at an Austin Goodwill for $2.99.  It was made by someone named “Newton”.  Let’s just assume his first name is “Isaac”, shall we?  The alcohol is optional.  It makes for some interesting glueing techniques, so keep it handy.

Step 1:  Pour yourself a drink.  Or two.  You may need a nap if you go beyond three.

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Step 2:  Pop out the letters of the keyboard and arrange them on the picture frame.  There will be some spacing in between some of the letters, so use this to your advantage. Arrange the spaces artistically.  Then take the E-6000 glue you’ve been sniffing, and glue everything into place.

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Step 3:  I left the frame to dry a bit and figured I should come up with some backing to the frame, if I intend to use it to hold pictures.  Keeping in line with the computer theme, I decided to use the cardboard box that my laptop came in.  I just cut it down to the measurement of the frame.

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Since I’m usually behind the camera, we don’t have many family portraits.  Or at least cute ones.  By “family”, I mean my fiancé, the dog and myself.  So I drew one.  On lined paper, since I kind of like the lines.

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Here we are.  The drawing’s scale is pretty accurate.

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I actually snuck in some words and phrases while I was arranging the letters.  This one reads, “I am John” as you can very well read for yourself.

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And then the bottom goes, “Software Guy”.  This one requires a few extra IQ points.

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And here is the romantic keyboard picture frame for my Valentine.  I plan to present it to him while whispering sweet Java script in his ear.  Maybe some C++ action.  I don’t know. We’ll see what we have time for after I give him his card made out of beans.

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5 Days, $500, 248 sf NYC Apt…Go!: Day 4

Hi again.  Nice to see that you’re still here.  Don’t worry, you’re not overstaying your welcome.  I mean, this isn’t even my apartment, so you’re fine.  Just make sure to eat her bread in even numbers, or else you’ll “off” the slice number in her loaf.  Ever been inside of an 8x5ft kitchen though?  It’s a lot like being inside of a 5x8ft kitchen.  No?  Well, today must be your lucky day my friend, because I’m about to make that a reality.  This is not a tiny kitchen, mind you.  I prefer to call it a “Reheater’s Dream Kitchen”.  Because lord knows, my sister is the best reheater of them all.  Ask her how to serve tuna out of the can, and she’ll show you at least ten different ways.  But this is the sort of room where, if you want to turn around, you’ll have to back up the way you came, turn 180 degrees in the hallway, and then walk back in reverse.  It’s sort of fun.  The first three times.  But take a look at what I was presented with, in terms of “Reheating/Can Opening Home Space”, upon arrival.

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I initially wanted to add some color to the walls, but soon found out that laying down paint was an impossibility in this space.  Instead of your run of the mill drywall, the kitchen walls were made up of some sort of industrial plastic composition that wouldn’t hold regular paint.  I’m pretty certain that the owner of the building had them installed in anticipation of some heavy duty meth lab cookery to be performed in these kitchens.  There seems to be no other plausible explanation.  Putting up a fabric faux wallpaper with cornstarch was also out of the question, since all of my sister’s reheating would’ve softened the starch over time.  This would result in the fabric coming undone.  So, I was left staring at this panel and finally came up with a solution.

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First off, I needed burlap.  I know everyone (and their mothers) are all about the burlap right now.  It’s on the cusp of being as uncool as the mason jars of two years ago, but I really like the neutral color and coarse fabric.  So I wasn’t afraid to implement it in this space.  You know a trend is toeing the line of being yesterday’s news when you find it being used as a tablecloth for a two year old’s cupcake birthday party at a house “just outside of Omaha and down the street from Costco!”.  But I’ve never admitted to being cool a day in my life, so here is my uncool burlap along with my kinda cool upholstery tacks.

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I cut the burlap to the measurement of the walls that were being redone and stitched the hemline.  This was so that there would be no ugly unraveling down the road.  A simple backstitch will suffice.  Since the plastic walls are impenetrable, I opted to put the fabric up along the edges, where the wall met the cabinetry.  This area was caulked in, so I used that to my advantage, by pushing in upholstery tacks all along the edge.

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Once I had the fabric up, I added some knickknacks I gathered up.  My sister bought the shelf from TJMaxx, years ago.  I used it to display interesting things found at Goodwill.  I had packed some, but many were found at the location in NYC.  The measuring spoons are from Anthropologie.

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Speaking of Anthropologie, we actually had a rather fortuitous trip there earlier that day. My sister and I dropped in, promising that we wouldn’t buy anything this time.  But the laws of nature is what it is, and we ended up picking up a few small things.  First, we got these perty perty napkins at $7.95 a pop.  Perty isn’t a word, by the way.  Unless you were reared in Texas.  Then our cashier got distracted by the busload of tourists who were doing an invasion of the store.  She, in turn, forgot to ring us up for the dresser knobs, saving us roughly $15.  And there may or may not have been some tights and a few small, very small clothing articles purchased as well.  The branch-like hooks are actually from Anthropologie’s sister store, Urban Outfitters.  They were marked at $12 per hook in-store, but 2/$20 online.  I mentioned this difference in price and the cashier gave me the hooks for the online price, saving me $4. That’s coffee money.  Or a taxi ride halfway somewhere.

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And here is the new home for my perty perty napkins, a book on housekeeping from the 60′s (hilarious) and some colorful (clearance) finds from Fishs Eddy.

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Kitchen (front view) “After”.  To put up fabric around the outlets and grates which were in this kitchen, I first removed them.  A screwdriver should be enough to take out the outlet plates and grate cover.  Pinpoint exactly where the outlet/grate hole is in relation to the fabric.  Cut out a rectangular piece in the fabric that is slightly smaller than the outlet/grate hole itself.  Then replace the outlet and grate cover.  The fabric should be held taut by the time you finish screwing in the covers.

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Here’s a picture of the kitchen’s vintage grate before the fabric treatment.  I’ve actually found similar grates like these in architectural salvage stores in Seattle for $50-$75.  Sadly, the dying lucky bamboo plant isn’t worth as much.  All the poor thing needed was a sympathetic hand to toss it into the trash chute.

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Here’s the same area but with fabric treatment.  These Pyrex glasswares were a great find during our road trip though New England, a few years back.  They were something like $10 apiece.  I thought the colors were nice so I used it as display, versus tossing them up in the cupboards to collect dust.

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When I said that the kitchen walls were made out of meth lab materials, I meant all but one wall.  There’s a wall to the immediate left that is not opposed to be painted or nailed upon. Here it is.

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I decided to keep the original white color to this wall, since I wanted to keep a color palette of white, burlap tan and black in the kitchen.  The bright accessories were there to add pops of color.  To add some black to this space, I took this old pre-printed artwork and some chalkboard paint.  Make sure to stir the chalkboard paint like crazy or else it’s not fully mixed.

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It took a few coats of chalkboard paint but here’s what came out of it.  Oh, I also trimmed the edges of the frame with pale yellow paint leftover from another project.  Then I hung up those branch hooks from Urban Outfitters.  You can use this chalkboard for anything though.  Doodles, menus, nail file.  You name it, it does it.

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View of the kitchen when I’m on my back, in the hallway.  A most natural position, I assure you.

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When the previous renter moved out, he left some treasures for my sister and I to play with. Here are two of our favorite goodies: lamps from Ikea.  He left us this short table lamp and its floor lamp twin.

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There’s really nothing special about the lamp as is, but I wanted to make it into a paper towel holder.  First, I took off the felt bottom.  It comes off pretty easily.  Then take a screwdriver and loosen the lightbulb socket up top.  There’s probably two or three screws in all.  And I hope you have enough sense to unplug that thing first.  If not, well…carry on. Once you loosen that up, cut the wiring completely off, replace the socket and glue it in with some heavy duty glue.  Paint the black socket a festive color of your choice, or not. I’m not one to tell people how to paint their paper towel holders.  Then place a roll of paper towels through the top.  Hold it into place by screwing in a lightbulb.  Just use one that’s already blown out.  Now you have a paper towel holder/art piece thing that’ll scare the plaid out of your hipster neighbors down the road.

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Since we’re still in the “Fun With Ikea Lamps” mode, here’s the other transformation.  This one had the same exact lampshade but was taller.  I decided to go Restoration Hardware meets Pottery Barn, inside of an Anthropologie store with this one.  Restoration Hardware is all about the deconstructed/industrial/I’ll-overcharge-you genre of design.  I personally love it.  Who needs a savings account in this day and age?  So with that in mind, I went on a deconstruction spree by tearing off the paper parts of the lampshade, leaving only the base metal exposed.

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You know those nautical rope lamps they sell at Pottery Barn?  They also sell the same ones at Anthropologie, but for twice as much?  Cause the cool kids don’t buy Pottery Barn anymore?  I kept those lamps in mind, then I went to Home Depot.  I grabbed some natural rope, about one centimeter around in thickness, and more E-6000 glue.  First, I tied a tight knot at the top of the lamp and glued it down with some glue.  Leave some rope at the end of the knot.

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Once I applied glue all along the pole of the lamp, I wrapped the rope around and around until it reached the base.  Then I glued the rope down to the base and added some safety pins where needed.  These were taken out when dry.  Here is my $10 rendition of the Pottery Barn rope lamp for $199, and Anthropologie rope lamp for $348.  You can add a lampshade if you’d like, but I think this wire frame is a bit more updated and significantly less seaside cottage-y.

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5 Days, $500, 248 sf NYC Apt…Go!: Day 3

Day 3 turned out to be a pretty routine day for me.  One minute, I’m trying to decide between clotted cream or lemon curd to spread on my scone (I ended up doing both) during high tea at The Crosby in Soho.  And the next?  I’m dumpster diving.  In my heels. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit since there was no actual dumpster involved.  Here’s the story: My sister and I were walking along 3rd Avenue when I spotted a pile of discarded furniture outside of Vintage Thrift, so we crossed the street to have a look. Nothing was really worth lugging home, except for this chair.  Absolutely love the lines of this piece.  It just needed a few coats of paint and someone to get rid of that awful pleather cushion cover.  So, we picked it up and dragged it home.

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Once we got back, I noticed that there was a slight separation between two of the joints in the chair.  To fix this, I dabbed a little wood glue to either end, pressed down and held it in place with a makeshift clamp.  It was, by no means a fancy contraption.  I just used a very heavy textbook and the laws of gravity to hold the joints together.  Once that was done, I sanded down the entire chair and wiped it down with a damp cloth.  Next, came primer…or if you’re too lazy to go buy primer like myself, I just did a base layer of any old white paint lying around.  Same thing, if your finish paint is light in color.  I think.  Don’t quote me on that one.

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After the chair was dry from the first layer of paint, I figured I should remove the wooden seat bottom before giving it any more paint.  You’ll probably want to do this earlier but it really doesn’t matter too much if you’re planning on reupholstering the whole lot like I did. This is the chair after a coat of Behr paint in “Antique White” and a coat of that “Crystal Clear” polyurethane.

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While waiting for that to dry, I turned my attention to the seat bottom itself.  There was no way I was going to put that brown pleather, that I half painted, back on the chair.

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My solution was to strip the pleather cover off of the seat cushion and then place it over the seat bottom.  Once I placed the two on top of each other, I used a pair of scissors to trim the cushion down to the size of the seat bottom.  Use glue to stick the two together so that it doesn’t move around later.  Then I used the striped fabric we had purchased from Tru-Mart to cover the whole thing.

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I forgot to pack my staple gun when traveling, so here’s my improvised reupholstery techniques.  First, use a quality fabric.  They make upholstery fabric for a reason.  It will cost substantially more but is worth it since the dense material will take the constant wear and tear of daily use.  But if you’re not planning on using it much, then I guess whatever fabric will do. Once you have your fabric, find the correct side, or the side that you want everyone to see. Place that side facing the ground (or another clean, hard surface).  Then place the seat bottom plus cushion on top of that.  Trim the fabric to the shape of the seat bottom but in a larger scale.  You want enough excess fabric to attach to the back of the cushion.  After the fabric is trimmed to size, you want to go ahead and attach the fabric to the seat cushion with nails.  Get the thin one inch nails that don’t have much of a head. The ones that are in small clear hanging packs at The Home Depot.  Use these in lieu of a staple gun.  To do so, you want to hold the fabric tight, then hammer the nail halfway down its entire length.  Once halfway buried, take your hammer and start hammering the nail on its side until the whole thing is flush with the seat bottom surface.  The end result should be a right angle that securely holds the fabric down to the seat bottom.  Use as many nails as you need to to get the fabric to rest taut.  I think I ended up using at least twenty for this project.  I prefer staple guns but this really does work just as well.

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And this is the Dumpster Diving Chair “After”.  The bright turquoise fabric choice gives the chair an updated “fun” look, although I’m not sure how a chair has fun.

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Beside that chair is a black dresser my sister bought years ago for $15, off of Craigslist. The overly gold hardware kind of gives it a Chinese lacquered tea room look that I wasn’t too big of a fan of.  But here is the dresser “Before”.

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And here are some scrap pieces of off-white paper that I rounded up.

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To change the entire look of the dresser, I cut the paper into rectangular pieces measured to the size of the inside of each gold hardware plate.  Then I glued it down.  The end result was more Restoration Hardware vintage dresser versus something out of a Chinatown attic.

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Pillows are pricey.  I have no idea why, since they’re so cheap to make.  So it should come as no surprise that I was spending the night sewing a pillowcase in my pajamas.  Below is the upholstery material I flew in with.  It was leftover from another chair reupholstery project.

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I took the fabric and measured it to the exact size of the pillow which was 18×18 inches. Then I cut the fabric out in three pieces, leaving a generous centimeter of extra fabric around the perimeter.

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This is a really clean way to sew a pillowcase, with no zipper.  I’ll show you in a later post how to do it exactly, since it’s a bit detailed.  But it’s basically three pieces with the two smaller ones overlapping in the back.

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Using a backstitch, I hand sewed the fabric and inserted a pillow my sister already had in her possession to form this.  Here is the pillow “After”.

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Next, I turned my attention to her green dresser.  I liked the color but was not a big fan of the knobs themselves.  What I wanted to buy were these rope knotted dresser knobs at Anthropologie for $12 each.  With twelve dresser knobs, it seemed a bit frivolous to spend $144 on a dresser’s hardware, so I decided to make my own nautical themed knobs. Here’s what I started off with.

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I then took wrapping twine and tied a tight knot into one of the ends, like this.

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Then you take an upholstery tack and jab it directly into the middle of the knot.  Trim off the excess rope.  Home Depot sells these tacks in the nails section.

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Take that knot and tack contraption and nail it directly into the center of each dresser knob.  This will only work with wooden knobs.

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Using E-6000 glue, I dabbed on a generous amount of the stuff to adhere the twine to the wood.  I wrapped it continuously around the tack until I reached the knob’s outer edge. Then I held it in place with a pin.  Take this out when it is completely dry.  I recommend E-6000 since it’s my favorite but you can use any heavy duty glue (like Gorilla Glue) as long as it’s easy to peel off of your hands at the end.  This project can get a bit messy so please don’t use Super Glue.  I haven’t used that stuff ever since it glued together my eyelids…last month.  But here’s the end result.  It cost about $8 to make when Anthropologie knobs would’ve been $144.

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Here’s a close up of some of the things I made on top of the dresser.  The “S” letter thing was made with random stuff I found for cheap at an architectural salvage store in Seattle.  I think some are actually those window clasps you see in old buildings.  The artwork itself was actually canvas she already had.  I covered it with chalkboard paint, let dry and then drew on it with a paint pen.  It’s Mo, the best dog in the world.  According to Mo.

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5 Days, $500, 248 sf NYC Apt…Go!: Day 2

You know you have a thrifting addiction when you find yourself at a NYC street corner, mentally shopping out of homeless person’s shopping cart/home-on-the-go.  In my defense, that woman had a lampshade that, I swear, was a Tiffany original.  I envy. Anyhow, back to the apartment.  After some Pushcart Coffee, my sister and I headed on over to what she refers to as “Thrift Row”.  Goodwill, Salvation Army, Housing Works, Vintage Thrift, they were all there.  I was not like a kid in a candy store.  I was more like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep, trying to stuff a Bonus blow up Hamburger Helper hand into my shopping cart within 60 seconds.  My advice on successful thrifting?  Put away your expensive handbags and engagement rings.  No sane person is willing to haggle down the price of a $50 chair with a woman wearing a $50,000 engagement ring.  I get my best haggling deals using a Trader Joe’s reusable shopping bag as my purse.  But that’s how we got this antique table for $40.  Table was originally $75.  We showed up with Trader Joe’s handbags.  Ten minutes later, we’re carrying a (very heavy) table back to the apartment, with the intention of turning it into a coffee table.  Below is a picture of the coffee table “Before”.

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To turn this table into a proper coffee table, I needed to make it not so tall.  I guess “shorter” would be the word.  To remedy this problem, I sought out the help of the superintendent of the building.  I needed a saw.  He had tons.  After asking me roughly ten questions all centered around the key theme of, “You’re not planning on using my saws to hack any bodies, right?” I finally got my hands on a saw.  Then, I went back to the apartment to saw off the legs to my desired height preference.  Legs of the table, that is.

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While I was sawing away (it was real wood, so it was super dense and hard), my sister sat on a chair and told me, “I’d help but you have a wedding to look good for, so this is a great way to work out those arms.  You can thank me later”.

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For this coffee table, I envisioned an antique white finish over layers of vintage blue.  To achieve this look, I gathered together all of my supplies which consisted of sandpaper, paint, paintbrushes and rollers.  You want to get the densely packed foam roller for this project.  Much smoother finish.  Oh, make sure you measure the table legs of any table if you’re going to saw it short.  You don’t want to be known as that house with the deck of cards under the leg of the dining room table, cause Mommy/Daddy couldn’t be bothered to measure correctly.

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First, I gently sanded the table.  Then I wiped it down with a damp cloth and let it dry.  This didn’t take long.  It’s not long enough for a full martini break.  Just a sip-and-bite-of-olive long break.  For this table, I bought a Behr sample of paint in “River Walk”.  With a paintbrush, I slowly applied very thin layers of blue paint to the entire table, making sure to leave bits of the gorgeous wood carvings to show through for an antique brushed look. You don’t want to load up on paint.  Work in a crosshatch pattern with your brush.  Oh, I forgot.  I took off the hardware before painting.  You should probably do the same.

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After I waited for the blue layer to dry (it doesn’t take long since it’s so thin), I used the same painting technique to apply two layers of Behr paint in “Antique White”.  The end effect should have bits of wood and vintage blue popping out between layers of antique white.  To seal it all in, I added a layer of clear polyurethane once the paint was dry.  Get the canister marked “Crystal Clear” or else you end up with the nasty yellow tinged “Clear” kind.

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To finish off the table, I re-added the carved brass hardware and lined the inside of the drawer with leftover scrapbook paper.

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Coffee table “After”.

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Same table, different view.

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Once I was done with the coffee table, I turned to the issue of providing privacy for the space.  I didn’t want to do long curtains since the bookcases sat directly below it and would’ve been covered by any long fabric.  Short curtains were out of the question as well since I think they look tacky.  Roman shades were also an option, but I chose to do a faux etched glass look for this room’s windows instead.  This window effect provides an opaque lacy look that allows plenty of light in but leaves the curious eyes of neighbors (across the courtyard) out.  The best part is that the window treatment can be undone upon move out with a wet sponge and some patience.  To create a faux etched glass look, I needed starch as well as sheer fabric.  Luckily, I packed panels of such fabric in my luggage.  This one was purchased from an Austin Goodwill years ago for $1.99.

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After giving the windows a thorough wipe down, I measured the glass area I wanted to cover.  Then I cut the fabric accordingly.

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For this fabric, since it’s light, I was able to put it up with heavy starch spray.  Just spray the window, then spray the side of the fabric that’ll touch the window and press down. Spray as much as you need to.  You may want to lay down a towel over any area directly under this.  It gets a bit drippy.

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Smooth out the air bubbles with your hands.  If you have a straight edge or squeegee, this will be a good time to make use of those.

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Since the spray can version of starch only works for the lighter fabrics, I had to find a different solution for the heavier lace material I wanted to use for the side windows.  So, I made my own starch.  To make this, you’ll need to dissolve 1/4 cup of starch in 1/2 a cup of cold water.  Stir it around a bit until the starch dissolves.  Then I boiled 4 cups of water in a pot and slowly added the starch mixture once it was hot enough.  Keep stirring until the starch is broken down and the mixture is slightly opaque.  Once this happens, turn off the heat and let cool.  Using a brush, apply the cooled off starch mixture to the window. Soak the heavy fabric in the starch mixture and apply the heavy fabric in the same manner as the lighter one.

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We bought the lovely lace on the side windows after searching for “un-trashy” lace for two days.  After checking out several fabric stores, we ended up at a corner store called Tru-Mart.  The service was horrible, the 10×20 ft store resembled a fabric hoarder’s paradise with nowhere to walk (or run away) but hey, the price was right.  We ended up getting two yards of this lace, two yards of burlap and three yards of striped linen for $23.  When you’re dealing with wet fabric, it tends to stretch a bit so you may end up having to cut away some of the excess fabric off the sides of the window.  Wait until it’s dry though.  But this is the window area “After” during daylight hours.

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And this is the window area “After” after sunset.

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5 Days, $500, 248 sf NYC Apt…Go!: Day 1

I have a sister and she lives in a rabbit hole.  Seriously though, I’ve seen homeless people in Seattle with roomier sidewalk real estate property.  But the plus side of it all is that her Gramercy neighborhood apartment in NYC does have less dog poop.  Which is always a huge selling point, I’ve heard.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Manhattan landscape, this area is where Gossip Girls is filmed.  That meant nothing to me either.  My sister called me up one day and said, “I’m booking you a flight to NYC.  You’re redoing my apartment. Oh, don’t pack any clothes, you can just wear mine”. I responded, “OK.  Let me finish my everything bagel first”.  Fast forward to a few weeks later and I’m lugging around a suitcase filled with crafting supplies, undergarments and shoes through the streets of Manhattan.  If anyone were to look through my luggage, I would appear to be some sort of traveling hooker with a penchant for crafting.  An interesting visual, I dare say.  But below is a photo of the space I was working with.  It’s 500sf in all but the areas I worked on (bedroom/living and kitchen) were 248sf in total.  You know your parents’ garage that’s too small for the car so they use it as storage?  That’s just about the kind of space I had to work with.

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She pretty much gave me free range over decorating but did have a list of things she wanted me to remedy.  First was that she wanted window treatments.  This was so that her neighbor across the courtyard could stop intentionally peering in and then acting surprised every time she caught him in the act.  Second, she wanted to form two separate areas between her sleeping area and the living room.  Third, she wanted to spend as little as possible because cheap runs in our family.  And lastly, she wanted me to keep my flu viruses to myself.  I packed that along with me from Seattle too.  But here’s a quick rundown of the big furniture pieces my sister already had in her possession.

Chloe sofa: Half off from Macy’s during their holiday sale.  Always buy quality sofas and seating.  People look and sit on these things and can tell the difference.  Buy the nicer sofa (quality retailers always have sales, just be patient) or find a vintage one with good bones and have it reupholstered.

Black dresser to the left: $15 off of Craigslist.

Black vanity to the left: $20

Green dresser: $75 off of Craigslist

Light green table: $149 from an antique store in the Hamptons when we were there for Labor Day years ago.  This is a view of the main living space, if I stand on the bed and look down.

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So this was roughly how Day 1 went:

3:45- Alarm goes off in Seattle.

3:45- Turned off the alarm.

6:10- Made it to SeaTac airport after a two hour long game of “Silence My Alarm Clock”.  I lost.

7:10- Pretended to fall asleep so that I didn’t have to talk to the person next to me for the next 5.5 hours.

3:40 (switch to EST now)- Landed at JFK.

4:20- Finally arrived at my destination after a 40 minute train ride in which I had to listen to a woman talk about the benefits of having leg hair in the winter.  I tend to agree.

5:30- Ate the best chicken meatballs ever at Penelope’s.

6:30- Left Penelope’s.  Briefly considered changing clothes and going back in for some more chicken meatballs.  Decided against it for reasons I’ve categorized as “public appearance of sanity”.

7:00- Entered Home Depot.  Left Home Depot 30 minutes later with a gallon, quart and three samples of paint plus painting supplies.

8:00- In bed, portioning out my Ricola cough drop supply.  Declared to my sister that artsy fartsy people don’t create if awoken before sunrise.  So the official Day 1 didn’t start until Day 2.  Let me know if that confuses anyone.

Okay, so on the official start day, I began by painting the apartment.  My sister has a lot of random things.  All colorful.  And most have been around since her college years.  My whole goal for the apartment was to edit her home to make it look less like the ramen noodle college years and more like the current days of “Mario Batali, are you sure those noodles are al dente?”.  So, I thought I would bring together all of her colorful possessions with Glidden’s “Pebble Grey” hue in a matte finish.  I opted for a bright white Behr color for the trim and bookcases.  When in doubt, go for a subtle hue.  You don’t want to be stuck with a bright red wall a la 2002.  That’s just tragic.

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I’ve been painting walls freehand ever since I found out that painter’s tape and I really don’t understand one another.  It never works for me.  I’ll teach you how to paint without painter’s tape in a later post.  Plus, it saves you time and money in the long run.

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This 1966 apartment is in an amazing post-war building so it has great features like built in bookcases.  The bookcases themselves are fantastic.  The orange-y wood grain finish? Not so much.  I ended up painting the whole thing white.

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While the paint was drying on the walls and bookcases, I went to Paper Presentation on 18th Street for some scrapbook paper.  I cut the paper to the bookcases’ backing measurements and attached it all together with some two-faced tape.  This was my answer to a temporary “wallpaper” since it can be peeled and discarded when the move out date nears.

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And here is half of the bookcase after a few coats of paint and my faux wallpaper treatment.

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My sister has some books.  Mainly ones she’s stolen from my collection and has yet to read or return.  But either way, to make the books more cohesive (for some reason, there were way too many hot pink book covers happening), I rounded up all paper shopping bags and scrap paper she had, to re-cover the books.

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They turned out pretty well, especially the books I wrapped in Anthropologie bags.  The metal grommeted bag makes for a pretty cute cover if you cut off the red and white fabric handle.  Save that too.  You can use it to wrap up small gifts.  You’re welcome.

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It didn’t take long to re-cover my sister’s collection of permanently “borrowed” books so after, I started to look for more things to redo.  My eyes fell upon this jewelry box that she’s had since high school.  A gift from a close friend of hers, there wasn’t anything wrong with the box.  I just thought it would look even better with a coat of Behr’s “Antique White” paint.  Here’s the “Before”.

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And here’s the “After”.

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While waiting for that to dry, I went thrifting with my sister.  Now, I always hear, “There’s no good stuff at the Goodwill and Salvation Army in NYC”.  There are amazing things but most people just don’t feel comfortable shopping amongst crazy homeless people.  I couldn’t care less.  The best thing about shopping at the Goodwill in NYC is that since its clientele is mainly homeless people, they have no need to buy housing goods.  They all flock towards the combat boots section and cargo pants rack.  New Yorkers have it easy.  In Seattle as well as Austin, I have to battle for deals amongst rich hippie people who try their hardest to look poor so as to not look like sellouts.  But here are the goods I found while shopping at thrift stores and Fishs Eddy on Day 1:

Goodwill NYC: Glass lamp base ($13.49), wine rack ($2.99) and 2 terra cotta pots the cashier forgot to charge us for.

Fishs Eddy: Glass cake stand plus dome ($11.97) which was 30% off for having a small defect and an avocado green porcelain colander which was on sale for $9.98.

I went home and immediately placed the moss my sister had collected from Seattle’s Lopez Island inside the cake stand plus dome for an instant terrarium.

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Also from Goodwill are these plaster medallions and etched tile that I purchased for $2.69 each.  The books piled on top of one another are from a thrift store called Vintage Thrift. $21.23 for the whole lot.  The big blue book was a Salvation Army find for $4.99.Image

Goodwill also provided us with cute knickknacks like these porcelain jars which were .89 cents and $1.97.  The green candleholder was $1.98.  Tell them you’re a college kid for the 10% discount, even if you’re not.  Worst they can do is say “No” and they never do. Anyhow, the huge spools of thread are from Housing Works.  The two bigs ones were $10 each, the small one was $5.  If you’re ever in NYC, go there.  Great cause (AIDS charity) and even greater finds.

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And (finally), here are the Bookcase “After” pictures:

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The other side “After” pictures.  Oh, I also made that mint shelf to the top left from a drawer I found at Butler’s Antique’s in Fort Worth years ago.  For $5, it was a steal.  I used scrapbook paper to detail the backing and added some interesting metal brackets and hardware.

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Vegan Gingerbread Doghouse

I looked at the dog one day in December and thought, “You know what you need, Mo? A doghouse made out of gingerbread”. You know, just your normal everyday thought process.

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Obviously, I’m not the only one around who is willing to construct gingerbread doghouses so here’s my recipe for building the above mentioned Vegan Gingerbread Doghouse.

Gingerbread Recipe

2/3 cup vegan butter, at room temperature.  (My resident vegan prefers Earth Balance)
2 cups packed brown sugar (Go ahead and get generic, I won’t judge…unless it’s that Wal-Mart brand)
2 cups sweet molasses (No one ever knows where this is but it’s in the syrup section. You’re welcome)
1.5 cups of water (Glacier melted ice water purified in a “green” facility built from sustainable virgin forest wood is best, but plain ole tap will do as well.  I guess)
12 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. kosher salt (It really doesn’t have to be kosher.  I thought it might make this recipe sound fancier if I threw that in)
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cloves

Vegan Royal Icing Recipe

2 lbs confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup powdered soy milk (I just get the soy protein powder in the bulk food bin.  Same thing)
12 cups soy milk (almond or rice milk works as well)
12 tbsp light corn syrup

Assembly Materials

1 rectangular cardboard box that is able to fit your dog
2 boxes of graham crackers (I use one box for the house while eating another box, I assume you will probably do the same)
1 large flat cardboard piece that’s big enough to form a “roof” for your doghouse
Stale trail mixes, candies, fruit.  Whatever is colorful and abundant and has been sitting in your pantry since last year

Step 1: You’re going to have to wake up for this.

Step 2: Put down the Bloody Mary.  Ok, now we can start.

Step 3:  In a large bowl, mix together the vegan butter, brown sugar, molasses and 1 cup of water.  No need for a fancy KitchenAid mixer when you have a Czech man.  I told him to channel his inner kolache making skills.Image

Step 4: In another large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and allspice.  Helpful Tip: I know it says “all-purpose flour” but seriously, who has 12 cups of that stuff lying around?  I just use whatever is in my pantry that resembles flour (as long as it’s not self-rising).  Spelt, wheat, rye, rice…go ahead, clean out that pantry.

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Step 5: Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Then add a little bit of water to make a dough.  Not too mushy and not too dry, is the key.  You want it to feel like Play-Doh.  Not the one that’s been sitting out drying because you were too lazy to put it back in the can.  The freshly opened variety.

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Step 6: Form your Play-Doh inspired gingerbread dough into eight equal balls. Wrap each dough with (here comes the product placement) Saran wrap and refrigerate for a few hours.

Step 7: Preheat the oven to 350º.  You can now line some baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease it.  Helpful Tip: Forego the parchment and use Silpat.  It creates miracles.

Step 8: Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin.  Unwrap one ball of dough at a time and roll each out to about 1/4 of an inch.

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Cut it out to the shape you want it and tap the surface with a pair of chopsticks (so the dough doesn’t bubble up when baking).  Remember to cut it out in exact measurement to your cardboard box.

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Step 9: Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the surface is firm to the touch.  You should probably stop opening the oven door while it bakes.

Step 10:  Transfer baked sheets onto a wire rack and let cool.  Go ahead and send out that text.  Here Comes Honey Boo Boo should have a new episode as well.

Step 11:  Since it was a vegan gingerbread house, it was a little bit softer than the regular recipe so I used a box for structural reinforcement.  Cut out peaks to either side of your box using the flaps on opposing sides, and then tape down the rest of the flaps.

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Step 12: Mix together all of the ingredients for the vegan royal icing.  It doesn’t matter in what order.  Don’t let anyone tell you that it does.  It doesn’t.

Step 13: Using a brush, I adhered each panel of gingerbread to its corresponding area on the cardboard box.

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Step 14: Cut out the cardboard roof, making sure to let it hang over the sides a bit.

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Step 15: I later added graham crackers to the cardboard to make the roof shingles since it resembles the real stuff.  But more importantly, I ran out of flour for the gingerbread recipe and was too lazy to go buy more.

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Helpful Tip: Use a piping bag for thin beads of icing, use a brush for heavy duty adhesion.

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Step 16: Start sorting through your candy/fruit/nuts.  Again, I just use up random stuff in my pantry.  Like the cranberries I bought two months prior from a cranberry bog because I was peer pressured into buying two gallons of the fruit by a beagle loving cranberry farmer.

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Helpful Tip: I also decorated some of the individual sheets of graham crackers to use later as windows.  To attach the windows to the house itself, I added icing to the backing and held it into place with toothpicks.  Take out the toothpicks when the icing is hardened.

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Step 17: Vegan royal icing is super strong but runnier than regular icing. It did the job but was messier than I anticipated. The dog appreciated the drips of sugar on the floor though.

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Helpful Tip: Try to work on one side at a time and let the icing completely harden before moving onto another side.  With all the sitting around time you have while waiting for it to dry, now might be a good time to restock your liquor cabinet.

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Step 1 (I know this is the second Step 1 but after restocking the liquor cabinet, I’ve lost count, sorry): I picked up a tub of that pre-made frosting while I was buying alcohol.  I made sure it was the vegan-approved variety though.  Get the super white one.  You want it to look like snow.  Put some of that good stuff into a piping bag and pipe away.  I made icicles with it, cause I’m fancy like that.

ImageSide view of the gingerbread doghouse.

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Mo waiting for her house to be done like every other impatient new homeowner.

ImageDone!  Four days and a few bottles of wine later.

ImageTo make it into a doghouse, I needed to saw a door through it but didn’t have the heart to poke a hole through the front since I had spent so much time on it.  So, I sawed a hole through the roof instead.  If the roof is good enough for Santa and his seven dwarves or eight reindeers or whatever he has, it’s certainly good enough for our dog, Mo.Image

Getting in a few good licks.

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Crazy eyes pop out for sugar.

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Leaving the sugar alone once we threatened to toss her out without her collar if she didn’t stop eating her new house.

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Best dog ever. We intend to charge her mortgage payments within 30 days of move-in though.

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4AM Letter To My Neighbor

In honor of it being Super Bowl weekend, I thought it might be useful to share a few tidbits on how to deal with loud partying neighbors using Emily Post’s book Etiqette as a guideline.

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I have loud neighbors.  Party until 4AM type neighbors. You would think that paying a certain amount in housing would weed out that ilk of people, but no.  So I thought, “What would Emily Post do?”.  Probably write a friendly letter of advice to the neighbor is what I’m guessing, but it’s pretty hard to guess what a dead woman would do.  Try it.  See?  Told you it’s hard.  Unless you’re Mante Te’o, that is.  So here is my letter:

Dear Neighbor,

With your permission, I (along with the rest of your neighbors), would like to start a collection fund to raise enough money for you to be able to afford to go out to a bar of your choice and hoot and holler to your heart’s content until the sun comes up.  But if you do insist on throwing parties within your own home, might I suggest a few tips on How To Host A Successful Party?

  1. After college, parties should end at midnight.  When you are still up and partying at 2am after the age of 25, your neighbors have no choice but to come to the conclusion that you have a very sad sex life.
  2. Under no circumstance is it okay for anyone south of the Canadian border to play Nickelback, back to back to godawful back.
  3. If your music is so loud that the neighbors’ walls vibrate, you are deaf.  Please Google Helen Keller and your nearest insurance covered otologist.
  4. The female to male ratio at any given party should be 1:1.  Ten guys and a girl is not a party.  It is ten guys and a girl.
  5. Those girls on the street you fools were hollering at to “Come on up!” at 3:56am are not “girls”, they are hookers.
  6. Please provide your guests with lighters.  There is nothing more annoying than waking up at 2:10am, 3:12am and 4:01am to a man screaming, “Does ANYONE have a lighter?”.
  7. “Have you ever questioned your job?’ is not an appropriate party conversation topic.  Please pass this information to others.
Thank you for your time.
P.S.  See you at the neighborhood BBQ on Saturday!

Doo-doing The Bathroom, Hallways & Patio

The bathroom.  People spend a lot of time in here alone.  You, your guests…the maintenance man who’s there to unclog your drain, and tell you that you need to cut your hair short so that he doesn’t have to unclog so often.  I mentally fired him but it hasn’t happened in real life yet.  I’ll let you know when it transpires.  But with the sort of friends and family I have, I know they’ll be snooping through my bathroom cabinets unsupervised, so I’ve developed a guideline on How To Impress Your Guest While They’re Peeing.  You might want to bookmark this.  You won’t learn this sort of stuff from Martha Stewart.

How To Impress Your Guest While They’re Peeing

  1. Your toilet paper choice is a direct reflection of your income and social standing.  Choose wisely.
    1. Seventh Generation: This is the recycled toilet paper of choice for hipsters/hippies who pray at the alter of Whole Foods.  My fiancé used to use this brand until I pointed out that their toilet paper division is based on the phrase, “There’s softer bathroom tissue out there, but ours does more”.  If you buy this brand, you’re going to have to keep the wrapper on the rolls so that your guests know that you are an Earthlover with disposable income.  Without the wrapper, I’m afraid your guests will assume that you stole toilet paper from the airport because in all honesty, there is no difference between the two.
    2. Quilted Northern Ultra Plush:  This toilet paper says the buyer is a person with a substantial savings account and marinated gourmet olives in the fridge. Nothing impresses a guest more than the quilted look.  You have arrived my friend, congratulations.
    3. Singly-ply tissue:  Quickest way to not have any return houseguests.  No one wants to have poor friends with debt issues.
2.  Choose your magazines and newspapers wisely.  I subscribe to The New York Times just so that my guests can think I’m educated, worldly and can’t finish the Saturday crossword puzzle.
3.  Hide your makeup unless you want your $43 Laura Mercier foundation to be half empty, and your Maybelline $2 lipgloss undisturbed but the subject of a text sent from your guest to a mutual friend that goes “I can’t believe she uses grocery store makeup…ew”.
4.  You may want to do a little pruning of your medicine cabinet. You lose friends with herpes medication, you gain friends with some manic pills.  Those people are fun.  Half of the time.
5.  Finally, keep your bathroom clean.  Seriously.  Clean it.  You’ll keep more friends that way.  Trust me.  Here’s the “Before” picture.
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Bathroom “After”. I added the medicine cabinet to provide extra storage. The towel rack on the left is actually a piece of driftwood I took from Discovery Park. Apothecary jars are used as storage for bar soaps and supplies. I also have an antique shaving kit and English dairy bottle on the counter if you look closely enough.

Cost:

Medicine cabinet: $89 (Home Depot, my second favorite store after Goodwill)
Apothecary jars: $8 for 2 (Austin Goodwill)
English dairy jar: $8 (Butler’s Antiques in Fort Worth, TX)
Shaving kit: $Free.99 (Fiance’s mom’s storage unit)
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Bathroom “After”. I made a toilet paper holder by buying a plain wooden box from a craft store, painting it grey and attaching fabric and frame to the front. The photos up top are ones I’ve collected over the years from garage sales and thrift stores. The magazine rack was bought at a Goodwill in Austin.

Cost:

Wooden craft box: $5 (Michael’s, buy and stock up when they’re 50% off)
Magazine rack: $6 (Austin Goodwill)
Photos: 99 cents apiece (Austin Goodwill)
Frames: $4 apiece (Austin garage sales)
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Bathroom “After”. One of my favorite pieces, this side table was a wedding gift to my fiance’s great great grandmother. It requires weekly applications of lemon oil since it’s fairly fragile due to years of neglect but it works well as a towel and hamper storage for the bathroom.

Cost:  Free

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Bedroom Hallway “After”. The chair was purchased from Goodwill at $12.99 and reupholstered with a yellow/grey starburst pattern. I found these old frames at flea markets, repainted them and added scrap bits of wallpaper to the border and then hung them up. The front one is off iron hooks from the ceiling and has sheer fabric attached to the back. The walking stick to the right was handmade in Cambodia. The basket underneath is full of yarn…so this is really my knitting area complete with the old person’s walking stick.

Cost:

Chair: $12.99 (Austin Goodwill)
3 Frames: $17 (Flea market in Fort Worth, TX)
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Hallway “After”. Not much going on here since I like to keep the entryway clutter-free but to the left is a shoe cupboard I’ve outfitted with interesting knobs. To the right is a handcarved chair I found for $8 that dates back to the 1940′s.

Cost:

Ikea shoe cupboard: $150
Dresser knobs: 6 at $8 apiece (Anthropologie)
Chair: $8 (Austin garage sale)
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Patio “Before”. This is the smallest patio I’ve ever seen but also one of the fewest ones seen in Seattle. Most places here don’t have a patio. People go sit in the woods, with their tops off, singing campfire songs when they want to sit outside.  Oh, that’s my dog, Mo. She goes topless all of the time.
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Patio “After”. I’ve planted fuchsia (correct spelling, I swear), sweet potatoes, strawberries, peppers, basil, lemongrass, rosemary, foxgloves, maidenhair, lavender, hydrangeas, delphiniums, sage…the tricky part was mounting the planters to a solid metal wall. My fiance figured out how using those metal bars and some brain power. The sign between the planters was taken from Colorado State Park during our first camping trip.

Cost:

All plants: $75 (Home Depot, Ravenna Gardens)
Planters: $80 (Home Depot and Seattle Goodwill)
Soil: $12
Outdoor seating: $300 (Pier 1 Imports)
Outdoor pillows: $21 (30% off at Pier 1 Imports)
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This is a vintage sewing table that no longer works.
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I unscrewed the machine from the table and hacked off the bottoms…
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…to make an outdoor table/cooler (since the top opens up). The milk rack on top is an antique one I bought from Goodwill for $1.99. I used it to display some mossy plants. You can’t really see but behind the chair is a planter that I made from upending a coffee table that I made when I was 17, lining the inside with coffee burlap bags and filling with soil and plants. You can see a better picture of it in the photo right before this one. It’s in the far left corner.

Cost:

Sewing table: Free (Given)
Milk rack: $1.99 (Austin Goodwill)
Mossy plants: $8 (Home Depot)
Dog: Not Free
Total Cost: $859.96 for all three areas.
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