Friday, July 28, 2017

Whose Poop Is This, Anyway? + Fruiting Tree

It's been quite awhile since I have come upon some mystery scat, but on Wednesday I did. Right in my own dang driveway!

I was heading out to round up Delia for her morning fetch sesh, but instead of finding her in the first three spots-where-chipmunks-hide where she can usually be found these days, I found this turd near the shop. It's not one of hers... she does her dog business off in the tall grass... she values her privacy.

And it certainly wasn't dropped by the same critter that sneaked in to eat EVERY LAST ONE OF THE CHERRIES on our tree within 24 hours of me even seeing that we had a tree full of cherries. Or at least it wasn't shortly after eating them... this thing is FIRM.

Yes, I went out a day or so after noticing the cherries to pick them and it took me a second to find the tree, because NO CHERRIES. NOT A ONE. It was just a green blob like all the others. Even those that had fallen on the ground were sucked right up. Sigh.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Can I Offer You a Tissue, Dear Guest?

I just wanted to add one more useful item to the guest room's new bedside "tables." A perfunctory search at a few stores for a simple tissue box cover yielded naught, so I decided to make one. Luckily, I found a wooden blank at a craft store for not-much-cost and had everything else in my various materials stashes!

I stained and varnished the parts of the wood that would be exposed using a stain I'd bought as a test for refinishing our kitchen cabinets. I decided to go with paint in a very similar color on those.

 To decorate the sides I used part of a fat quarter of this Burly Beavers print that I picked up on a whim, fusible interfacing remnants from the tee shirt quilt project, and black cording & grey bias tape that were probably my grandmother's.

I assembled all those parts and glued onto the wooden blank with the same Mod Podge I used for sealing the coasters I made for the Balcony Upgrade.

Meanwhile, I'm furiously pinning inspirations for replacing the old blinds for the guest room and mulling over paint colors for the ceiling and maybe even one wall in there, too. It will probably be autumn, at least, before I get to those projects.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Balcony Upgrade - Lighting & Storage + Coasters & Rules

Your darn tootin' I can't just do a quick clean-up and then move on! The addenda and details just keep comin'! I am Tara. These are projects. It is the order of things.

Annnnnnyway, while working on tuning up the balcony I remembered pinning some kind of solar outdoor lamp projects and I had pinned some kinds of solar outdoor lamps. You see, there is no porch light out there. No electric light whatsoever. So I made these for the tables out there. I looked at a couple different tutorials for both chandeliers (here and here) and table lamps (here) to figure out how to do wall-mounted fixtures.

The search for some used, inexpensive fixtures began! Luckily, I only had to try two stores before finding something suitable. Thank you Home ReSource! Sure, I would've liked to have gotten them for less than $10/each, but they're actually pretty high quality - cast brass bases and the like.

They were in pretty good shape! I feel lucky that the finish was already suitable for our space - I was resigned to the idea that I'd be painting over brass or brushed nickel. All I had to do was remove a little latex paint & those irritating labels using rubbing alcohol, remove the wiring, and figure out how to keep it all together.

I understand many or maybe all the reasons we need to have these wattage labels on electric light fixtures, why they need to be where anyone changing the bulbs will see them, and why the adhesive needs to keep them on there under extreme conditions. That said, C'MON! We're spending money and time to get the fixture that LOOKS nice! It CANNOT look nice with this ugly label on there. Figure out a better place! Geez.

It seems like a lot of the tutorials found online use dollar store solar lights - the kind with stakes for lining paths and driveways. I hope that using something a little spendier means they will last longer, be brighter, stay on longer. Mine were just under $5.00 each at a home center and claim to be about 5 lumens.

I just detached the stakes, wrapped a little double-sided foam tape around the part of the light that had stuck into the stake, and stuck them into the sockets of my fixtures.

Here's the deal: because there is no electricity involved and the lights themselves are meant to be outdoors, I could turn the fixtures upside down. The upside to that is that it made it easy to find a fixture that allows the solar cells to point up and be uncovered. The downside is that because the tops of the glass covers are not the bottom, they will collect dead bugs, dust, and pollen.

It was a struggle, but I was able to stay awake until they turned on.

Overall the lighting aspect of this balcony upgrade cost: $20 + 9.96 = $29.96!


It also seemed like a good idea to have a little spot to store a few items that are specifically for the balcony, but maybe are best not left out all the time. A little on-house mailbox seemed like a quick and easy solution for this and luckily I found one at the Habitat ReStore for $5! But of course, it needed a little tuning up.

I removed the newspaper holder underneath, scraped off the dried glue, sanded, then spray painted it. It's brown primer covered with matte clear on the outside and copper on the inside. All paints I had on hand! Which keeps the cost of this project at $5, because I already had screws to hang it with, too.

I haven't found something to cover the holes that held the missing emblem or nameplate that was on the mailbox originally, yet...

What is stored in there now is a rag for wiping dust and pollen off the table and chairs should they need it, coasters (see below), and a bottle opener.

Because the bistro table has a glass top and I went to all the trouble to refinish that side table (there's 8 layers of stuff on there, folks!), I decided to make coasters for them. I even had all the materials on hand for these, too. YEY! Free coasters!

Perfect spot for an iced latte of a July morning.

Sealed scrapbook paper on top, copper Lustre Stone on the sides, and...

... cork on the bottom.

Oh! And I decided that the rejuvenated balcony would be the perfect spot for this piece that I inherited from Sol a few years back. I had a full set of the medium-sized letters that I scored on Ebay at a screaming deal shortly after he gave it to me and now Jo-Ann has those big ones (and a few other sizes) in several colors for a WAY better price than the office supply places, so I got a set of the 2" white ones.

I found several variations of a sign such as this on pinterest and selected the phrases that best fit us and our intended uses of our "new" spot. Oh, yeah. And if figured out how to cover those holes in the mailbox where there had originally been a plaque of some sort.

It's shrink plastic for ink jet printers! I made up a sign in a photo editing software, printed it on the plastic, then shrunk it in the oven as per the instructions. I added some glossy "triple-thick" glaze, glued a magnet on the back, et voila! I already had all the supplies, so I still have only spent $5 on re-purposing this! WOO!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Balcony Upgrade - Painted Decking with Guano Defense System + Door Mat

Once we had two kinds of comfortable and convenient sitting areas on the balcony, it was time to disassemble them! But just to repaint the decking. Like soooooo many exterior pieces of the property, the last owners painted (slopped on) the balcony decking with cheap barn red paint. The kind you can buy for next to nothing at any hardware store, pre-mixed. You know, it's held up very well on the vertical surfaces of the chicken coop, picnic table, etc. But it wasn't meant for horizontal surfaces, especially those that are walked on. Anyway, it looked almost as bad as the deck. Ugh.

And you'll note the guano that accumulates on and damages the surface below the gas tank cum bird house also left behind. I'm pretty sure it would not occur to me to install such, but both E and I kind of dig it. Mostly we like that birds nest in it every year and since it's pretty much the color of the siding and we live in the woods, it doesn't bother us much aesthetically, either. Anyway, in order to keep the newly painted decking in decent shape, I added a birdie litter pan underneath.

The magnets I was going to use originally, weren't as strong as I wanted them to be, so I used some other, smaller ones that I had on hand for another (unfinished) project. I know where I can replace them, so this seemed like a good-enough way to just get this done.

I inlaid some magnets into the surface, cutting the holes before painting, then screwing in the magnets after. I picked up steel pizza pan* at a department store for just $5.99! It will be kept from blowing around by the magnets... I hope. Next, I added a layer of kraft paper, then topped it with a couple of lesser magnets to hold it all down. It will be there until the swallows move out and them be put back in the spring.

I suppose we're trading a dirty deck for a tripping hazard, but hopefully we & our guests can be counted on to pay attention.

While we're looking down to admire the new surface and avoid tripping, we may as well acknowledge the new door mat. So here it is. Oooo! Ahhhhh!

Yeah, I know the print doesn't quite match the texture design, but I didn't notice until I got it home. It's the kind of thing that would generally bother me, but this time it doesn't. It must be because I am enjoying my time on the updated balcony too much!

After I'd swept and hosed it off, I let it dry really well. My plan was to do one of each of the four layers over 4 mornings before it got too hot. This was delayed one day by thunder, lightning, and rain. The first two layers are AquaLock primer and the second two layers are Floor & Patio paint, both by Benjamin Moore. It took a whole gallon of primer to get good coverage and about 1 1/3 quarts of paint. The color is 2111-50 Stone Harbor which is warmer than it looks in the photos. It's one of those greiges that looks grey in some light, beige-ish in others. I used the Low Sheen version.


*I started with this oil drain pan from that hardware store ($9.99), but was keeping my eyes peeled and mind open for something shallower - less visually and physically intrusive. A few days after I bought it, I got the idea to use a pizza pan! It's a little bit narrower than I originally thought my minimum width should be, but only by 1/2" or so.

What was I thinking to even consider this?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Balcony Upgrade - Cleaning Up After Others

The house came with a satellite dish and all kids of ugly cables stapled to the siding; mostly on one side and the front, second story above and around the balcony. We removed the satellite dish shortly after moving in, but the cables were still there for the most part. Also, a lot of the low voltage/phone wires run outside the house, but even though we don't have a land line we're leaving those that are actually attached to something.

They run from where the dish was attached to the house on the left end of this horizontal board to the right end where they run down, up, and also over.

Most of these aren't attached to anything other than the siding.

Upstairs they ran over that horizontal board above the board & batten siding.

So I took all that crap down on the balcony before I put the refinished bistro set and new Adirondack chairs up there, but before I painted the decking. Then... what the h*ck is this? There's a standard power outlet on the other side of that which can't be a coincidence, right? It sure doesn't seem especially smart or particularly safe/up-to-code.

Maybe it's just some sort of ground wire?

So I flipped the circuit breaker for that outlet in the guest room to dig around in there to see if this is attached and detach it if so. Nope, no formerly-red wires in there. This project didn't result in a huge visual impact, but it has been nagging at us as someone else's ugly necessity that isn't at all necessary for us. It also makes the balcony that much more welcoming and less like a sitting area carved out of a systems closet.

Once the cables on the balcony were done, I focused on the real mess attached to the side of the house. I knocked it out one evening after dinner.

Even I was surprised at how much cable had actually been up there after I got it all down!

All that's left is one skinny little phone wire that you can't even see in this photo.

While I was doing that side, I got to wondering if all this effort was going to be worth it. It was itchy and dusty and buzzy-insects were pestering me, but I am glad I did it. It really does look tidier and less half-assed.

FULL DISCLOSURE: We added our own cable - just one. Ours is for the internet and that is how we get any of the TV-type stuff that we watch. Ours is tucked away a little better, or at least it is less noticeable to us.

Sixty-one-pound dog for scale:

For some reason, Delia spent a good deal of time sitting with the cables that I removed and piled up on the deck that evening. Goofball.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Balcony Upgrade - Refurbished Side Table + Adirondac Chairs

While spending all that time up on the balcony refinishing the bistro set, I was reminded just how pleasant it is up there. I think it's a bit cooler than the deck overall and you don't have to chase the shade around, because by mid-late morning it's generally all in the shade. Plus the view ain't bad either. So I got it into my head to check out some more leisurely chairs.

I had already wanted to make some Adirondack chairs and I think I still will, but not this year. Maybe next year or the year after. These were very inexpensive and their level of sturdiness and attention to ergonomics* belies that, but I think they'll give us a couple years of life if we don't sit together in one or do much chair dancing.

I have had this little side table for probably 20 years. It was a thrift store find back in the mid-late 90s and was a very 1970s orange. At the time I painted it an ivory color. Later, I repainted it an apple green. I still like that green a lot, but it was dinged up pretty good and not the right color for the balcony. I gave it a similar finish as the bistro set, but man, oh, man was it faster on this smooth and simple little number than on.

* What these chairs add in lumbar support, they entirely lose in head/neck support. When you tilt your neck backwards to rest your head on the high chair back your head just keeps tilting and tilting back until you're kind of staring straight up. Luckily, I had just enough fabric leftover from making the seat cushions for the bistro set to make headrests! They attach with straps and hook & loop tape through the slats at the top of the chair back.

Oh, I do think we both will spend a good deal of time up here this summer and into autumn! I can already tell dozing off is in our futures. I still want to do something about the deck surface, though...