A Little Upgrade: Easy DIY Valance

Last year I bought those super cheap ($5) plastic blinds at the home store. I was planning to turn them into roman shades for one of the front rooms. My goal was adding a privacy option for that window when needed. Since that need was not very often, budget for doing this was super slender. Mostly, those windows remain uncovered. Their glazing allows privacy during the day and that room just doesn’t get a lot of night use.

Yet once the shades were up, I really liked the way they worked to promote privacy yet still allow light in. Roman shades would completely block the light out. In an already dark room, that wasn’t going to work.

Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it's so dark but this is the room with the lights on!
Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it’s so dark but this is the room with the lights on! And flash.

If the blinds were to stay, a valance was needed. Because of the low ceilings in this house, I wanted something that wouldn’t add much weight or darkness, something that would disappear yet, when you actually noticed it, would look clean and a little luxurious.

When I got the blinds last year I also scored some nice upholstery fabric for $3 a yard from the Home Fabrics moving sale. The lightest part of the weave matches the “Wyndham Cream” of the walls. Originally meant for the roman shades, this would do nicely for the valance.

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DIY Network had a good article on building a cornice and the unfussy directions seemed right for this project. Plus I seemed to have much of what I’d need on hand. My major variations from their plan were that I used 1×8″ wood instead of 1×6″ and that I didn’t bother with batting or adhesive spray. Overall, a really good, helpful article with great pictures. I did wish they’d put in instructions for folding the fabric around the frame. Yet that said, my advice for doing the same is pretty much “try a bunch of stuff and do whatever works!”

The end result was a simple, clean valance. Unfussy and successful in hiding the cheapo blinds at rest. It adds just the right touch of luxury and simplifies the look of the windows.

The project is pretty easy, taking about a half day. For me, figuring out how to attractively fold the fabric was harder than making the box. And I did screw it up, though not enough to completely redo it.

Here’s the project:

  1. Gather supplies. In my case:
    • 4″ L brackets (ideally in packet with screws, usually about $4 for a packet of four if you’re buying new)
    • 2 1×8″ pine boards, 8′ long, usually about $6.50 a piece if buying new or $2 at the local ReSale store. These can be other types of boards, as long as they are straight so be sure to raid your existing lumber pile first. The boards are getting covered up so condition doesn’t matter too much. For the length of my window, I needed two eight footers but a smaller window would need less.
    • Wood screws, (1.5″ for mounting the brackets to studs, 1/2″ for screwing brackets to top of valance, and 1″ for joining the wood pieces. I used both traditional screws and Kreg pocket jig ones. Because I love them.)
    • Wood glue
    • Staples
    • Fabric, several feet longer than length of valance. Mine cost about $9 because I went for a whole three yards even though eight feet would have been enough.
    • Scotchguard or waterproof spray (optional)
    • Batting and spray adhesive, if you want it padded, which I didn’t (optional)
    • Equipment I used:
      • Circular saw
      • Measuring tape
      • Measuring square
      • Pencil
      • Stapler
      • Scissors
      • Drill and drill bits
      • Screwdriver and bits
      • Level
  2. Mount two L brackets on the studs by the window using wood screws. Choose location by width of wood and what you want hidden. I wanted the front panel to cover the blinds when up, yet not block any light. The blinds were outside mounted so valance needed to extend beyond the blinds. Check to make sure your brackets are level.

    I know putting up the brackets first might seem odd but I had my reasons. The main one was I wanted to decide whether an 8" or 6" facing board would provide the right amount of coverage.
    I know putting up the brackets first might seem odd but I had my reasons. The main one was I wanted to decide whether an 8″ or 6″ facing board would provide the right amount of coverage.
  3. Next find two 6″ or 8″ wide boards in the lumber pile or at the store. Purchased new, these are about $6.50 each. They do need to be straight, free of any major bowing but they can be otherwise ugly, since they’ll be covered. They don’t actually have to be the same width, as long as you’re getting the effect you want on the front panel of the valance. So if I didn’t need the valance to protrude so far, I could have gotten away with a narrower top board (6″).
  4. Measure window and cut boards 4″ wider than window frame. Mine measured 73″ so I cut the boards 4″ bigger, at 77″.
  5. Drill pocket holes in the facing board to mount it onto the top of the box.
    This is what the Kreg jig looks like.
    This is what the Kreg jig looks like.

    This is what the screw holes look like once you've drilled them.
    This is what the screw holes look like once you’ve drilled them.
  6. Spread glue on board.

    Since these boards would be covered and not stained, it seemed fine to be a bit generous with the wood glue.
    Since these boards would be covered and not stained, it seemed fine to be a bit generous with the wood glue.
  7. Screw top and front boards together.2016-02-14 14.15.29
  8. Cut valance side pieces from leftover scrap of 8″ (or 6″) wood.  Measure just big enough to close the valance box. This piece will be flush to the wall.
    Here I'm measuring the width needed for the sides of the valance box. It's better to use the actual build than mess with measurements.
    Here I’m measuring the width needed for the sides of the valance box. It’s better to use the actual build than mess with measurements.

    When isn't cutting pieces of fresh wood fun?
    When isn’t cutting pieces of fresh wood fun?
  9. Drill pocket holes to screw side pieces to top and front of valance.

    Secure the side to the top and front of the valance.
    Secure the side to the top and front of the valance.
  10. Glue and screw again.
  11. Check it all to make sure it’s square.
  12. Allow wood glue in valance to dry fully. For me, this didn’t mean waiting a full 24 hours for the glue to set the way the bottle says. This valance isn’t going to be moved or bear weight once it’s mounted so basically, you just need the glue to be dry so it doesn’t mess up your fabric wherever it might have seeped out.
  13. Now attach fabric to the valance with your staple gun. Keep in mind all of the points below BEFORE you start stapling:
    • Before you fix fabric in place, test it out and make sure that all the visible bits look the way you want. This takes experimenting based on your frame, fabric and the look you’re going for. I folded my wide (54″) upholstery fabric over lengthwise for a tiny bit of softness. If you’re using batting to pad the valance, you want to test your folds over that the padded valance.

      Here's me messing around with draping the fabric. An inelegant process . . .
      Here’s me messing around with draping the fabric. An inelegant process . . .
    • Pull fabric taut on all visible arts. If you have to compromise, make sure the most visible parts are the most taut.
    • If folds will be visible, make them on the sides, avoid the front, which should be smooth.
    • Here is where you could also add padding (from batting) and use adhesive spray instead of — or in addition to — staples. I didn’t do either, just doubled my fabric over and stapled it. The DIY Network tutorial shows this process.
    • Plan that fabric will cover the inside of the valance box as well as the outside. The goal is to have it look finished if you actually happen to look up inside the valance, though most of the time, no one in the world will do this (and also, if you’re mounting drapes under the valance, it will be hard to see).
    • Once you’re sure all the outside bits are well covered and the inside looks okay, carefully cut away extra fabric inside the folds to reduce the bulk.
    • Staples should be all on the inside of the valance frame, where they will not be seen. I was A BIT CASUAL about my stapling, forgetting that you’d be able to see inside the valance at close inspection. So I ended up with a few visible staples.

      Up close you can see the staples if you peer inside the valance. I've decided not to redo it but I would be more careful next time.
      Up close you can see the staples if you peer inside the valance. I’ve decided not to redo it but I would be more careful next time.
  14. Optional: spray fabric with Scotchguard or waterproofing spray.  I did two coats, just to make dusting / cleaning the valance easier.  I figure the coating will make it more difficult for dust and dander to embed themselves. If you’re not sure how your fabric will react to waterproofing, always test it first.
  15. Place the valance on top of the L brackets and center. Next, secure it by screwing the 1/2″ screws into the holes on top of the L bracket.
  16. Take a picture of your valance and send it to me.
    Here's the valance mounted. Again, sorry it's so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.
    Here’s the valance mounted. Again, sorry it’s so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.

    Another dark shot - sorry! But it kind of shows how the valance creates a more finished look over the cheap blinds.
    Another dark shot – sorry! But it kind of shows how the valance creates a more finished look over the cheap blinds. And that you can’t really see the inside staples unless you’re one of those people looking for problems. (If that’s you, my house won’t disappoint!)

So that’s it. It’s not the most exciting fabric covered valance I’ve seen but it does just what I hoped. Now the window looks finished and intentional without pointlessly clamoring to be the center of attention. Because obviously, the giant squid has that locked down.

Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it's so dark but this is the room with the lights on!

Here's the valance mounted. Again, sorry it's so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.
Again, here’s the before and after . . . just a subtle bit of luxe.

Have you made a valance from scratch? Would you do it again?


In Favor of Gentle Goodbyes

OK, before you start reading: Max is not dead. Onward.

Today I am grateful for a service called Gentle Goodbyes. Their website says “when it’s time to say goodbye to your pet, it should be gentle, surrounded by family and in your own home.”

Um, YES. About time. And for the record, I am still completely traumatized from the last time I had to end the life of a beloved dog. My primary memory of her last moments were of her struggling, unhappy and scared, carrying her into the vet (and I still believe that she was scared most of being left there again, hooked up to an IV and miserable in a cage). And before that, a judgey vet who kept telling me we could prolong her life if I would just commit to her being on an IV and in a crate for much of every day.

My largest beast (Maxim) has been on the downward slide for three years. The move to Boise has revived him somewhat but he continues to age, growing increasingly more arthritic with delicate internal systems. He’s not young, somewhere around thirteen or fourteen, and he came from the pound with some signs of . . . not precisely a rough life, but one without much in the way of preventative care.

I’ve made the decision that when he goes into massive shut down mode again, we’re not going to reengage in the weeks on an IV, thousands of dollars worth of inconclusive tests and drug experiments. It’s partly because I know I don’t want that for myself, and that he hated it last time, and yes, that the resources just aren’t there these days. Also, what resources we have need to go to keeping the rest of the animals fed and housed.  There will be a point, not to far off, when it will be time to let him go.

But ah, the total dread of dealing with the vet. It’s not just the backbreaking effort of hauling an 90lb dog in and out of the car to a place he REALLY does not want to go. Or the MASSIVE guilt of refusing to do just one more test or regime. Or the expense of it all. Well, it’s all of those things. But it’s also the horror of putting him through all that misery.

So, it might sound dark but I was so happy to find an ad for a vet service that will come to your home, administer the kill shot and help you deal with the body in whatever way you wish. IMHO, it’s the kind thing to do for Max.

In Boise, it’s called Gentle Goodbyes. They employ a group of vets who will come to your home within 48 hours of being called. When I spoke with them to get the details, they were kind and patient. Pricing, while perhaps a little higher than a vet visit (about $220 for the visit/shot, additional costs for body removal and cremation depending on your choices), was not high and seemed reasonable to me.

In practical terms, it was also a relief to know they had a service to cope with the body, something I really didn’t think I could do on my own. And I appreciated knowing it in advance what it would cost versus having to write a check at the vet office while sobbing brokenheartedly (yes, that happened. More than once.).

I was headed out on a long-planned trip and worried that Max would start failing while I was gone. On the phone, Gentle Goodbyes worked with me to authorize the decision to euthanize and emailed me a healthcare directive form for use by the vet and my dog sitter. They understood that my priority was minimizing Max’s distress, not making him hang on in misery until I could get back to the U.S. and watch him die.

We both got lucky and there was no need to call for their services while I was gone. Still, knowing I had a good plan that would minimize Max’s distress relieved so much anxiety for me. So thank you to the vets and staff at Gentle Goodbyes. I’m not looking forward to my next call to you but I am really, really grateful that you are there.

And so here’s a question for every other location in the U.S.: what’s the deal? Why isn’t this an available option everywhere? And why don’t more vet offices offer a home visit for this service?

OK, those are sort of rhetorical questions. I actually have a pretty good idea of the answers. What I’m saying is, I hope we can find more ways to offer compassionate care for our animals everywhere.

Totally off topic: this monkey is in rehab in Costa Rica. He need socialization and to form bonds to a new family group. Go Costa Rica. And boo to idiots who think they can have baby monkeys as pets and then dump them in the forest when they get older and aggressive.  Don't do that.
Totally off topic: this guy is in rehab in Costa Rica. He needs care and socialization to form bonds to a new family group. Go Proyecto Asis near La Fortuna for working to make that happen! And boo to idiots who think they can have sweet baby monkeys as pets and then dump them in the forest when they get older and aggressive. Don’t do that.

And now back to Max and the rest of the Mints. None of whom have recently died.





Following the Heart of Dharma

This post is a small contemplation about gratitude and the paths that lead us to wonderful places.

I was lucky enough to stumble on the Heart of Dharma sangha through Meetup when I moved to Boise. I’m not much of a joiner generally but this meetup seemed undemanding and familiar, raised as I was in a non-monotheistic household.

And let’s face it: there’s no denying I need need all the meditation practice I can get. Not to mention practice in compassion. And letting things go.

You know what's cool about the roly poly Buddha? It all slides off.
You know what’s cool about the roly poly Buddha? It all slides off.

First meeting was great. Guided meditation followed by an illuminating talk. A teacher (Dana Marsh) who spoke with compassion, kindness, intelligence and humor. Kindly people who smiled a lot. Even being thanked for sharing my practice with the group; the loveliness and wisdom in that every practice gesture still strikes me with awe.

As with all great starts, I imagined myself attending the guided meditations at every opportunity, learning amazing things and attaining some of the wisdom my treasured sister Erica makes seem so effortless. The schedule was easy too: an evening meditation on Tuesdays and one on Sunday mornings. One hour, in and out, and even a bikeable distance!

Now, a few years in, I find my attendance is more inconsistent than I’d like or would be helpful to me. Yet, every time I go, I come away uplifted, optimistic and peaceful. And I feel so fortunate that the sangha exists, so accessible and so near to me. As my sister has pointed out, this wasn’t available to me where I lived in California and the nearness of a wonderful teacher . . . it’s a priceless gift.

This year I’m feeling especially lucky because in an unusual fit of resolve, I decided to attend the Eight Week Spiritual Jump Start, Sunday mornings at 9:30. In theory, it sounded like a good thing but in practice, I wasn’t too excited about it. I don’t like making commitments. Classes or anything that I feel I should do makes me want to flee. I’m the guy that, the minute I say I’ll do something marginally social, I want to do the opposite.

Classes started and I’m pleased to say, I haven’t skipped one yet. (This is slightly miraculous.) Still, last week was a bit pressured and over-scheduled. As I was contemplating another over-scheduled week ahead, I decided to reduce the pressure. No Sunday morning alarms. No rushing to get the beast to and away from the dog park in order to trundle into class on time. No inhalation of breakfast and coffee. I was not going to feel bad about missing class today. And, if we all slept in and I still wanted to do something for my battered, dark soul, I’d hit the 11 o’clock guided meditation session and call it good.

You get where this is going. With no pressure or expectation, I woke early, naturally, in time to catch a beautiful sunrise. Had quiet coffee and a clementine by the fire (I do love clementine season!). Made myself a mint tea to go. Actually showered and put on clean clothes. Max and I ambled off to the dog park where he staggered about leisurely and managed to secure the attentions of kindly dog hosts like Star. When it was time to go, no civil disobedience. We actually made it to class a few minutes early.

And of course, it was again wonderful. Today’s class helped me get some perspective on some issues, renewed my respect for my teacher, reminded me how much the person or creature sitting next to me has to teach me, and generally gave me an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and peace.  Also, I laughed out loud a few times. (Yeah, I know, that paragraph was all about me. In fairness, I’ve never claimed to be an evolved Buddhist.)

Anyway, before this day gets into busy and doing mode — or not busy and lollygagging mode, not sure which — I’m taking these few minutes to make a note of gratitude to the sangha for existing, to Dana Marsh for teaching, to all the volunteers and supporters of Heart of Dharma that make it so accessible. Thank you.

Note: If you’re not a Boise local but would like to benefit from this teacher (Dana Marsh), her book, Extraordinary Freedom, is available on the Heart of Dharma website and online. I found it accessible, engaging and helpful.

Sometimes the Buddha is just pretty. This one lives in a teak temple in Myanmar.
Sometimes the Buddha is just pretty. This one lives in a teak temple in Myanmar.

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

Dark winter mornings are a little sweeter when I can start them with a small muffin along with my coffee. The tang of lemony cake, a burst of blueberry, and a slight crunch of topping — it’s just a nice, cheery way to begin the day. I want a muffin in a manageable size, not those ginormous monster muffins you get in stores. And I want it to taste fresh, yet I definitely don’t want to haul out of bed early every morning to make myself a fresh batch.

These Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins work perfectly for all of the above. A little fruit, a little butter, a little crunch . . . it’s all there. And they freeze well so you can pull them out as needed. They’re tasty for a snack anytime. Cupcake-sized, they’re super portable and an easy food to gift because they don’t have to be eaten instantly.

This recipe is adapted from Deb Perelman’s great- and liberating – Smitten Kitchen cookbook, and there’s also a website to check out.  I make these in cupcake size baking cups and freeze them so as to have muffins handy. They keep fine covered on the counter for a couple days.

This recipe has two parts, batter and streusel. This is the total ingredient list for both:

  1. 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  2. 2/3 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt (nonfat is fine)
  3. 1/2 to 3/4 tsp fine lemon zest (add more if you want batter more lemony. One lemon should give you enough)
  4. 1/2 tsp good vanilla
  5. 4 large eggs
  6. 3 cups of sugar, divided
  7. 1/2 generous tsp fine kosher salt
  8. 4 tsp baking powder
  9. 1 cup and 2 TBS cornmeal, divided
  10. 2 3/4 cup flour, divided
  11. 1 1/4 cup butter (2 and 1/2 sticks), divided
  12. 4 cups of blueberries, washed and dried or, if frozen, defrosted. Basic frozen blueberries work fine in this but the nicer they are, the better the muffin.

Assembly and Baking:

  1. Soften 1 cup/2 sticks of the butter for about an hour or more on the counter. Take the chilled 4 TBS of butter and cut it into small pieces while cold and set aside for the streusel
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get out your muffin pans and cupcake liners and set those up. This recipe makes about 36 cupcake sized muffins or 24 bigger muffins
  3. Whisk dry ingredients together in two different bowls:
    • Set #1, main batter: 2 cups flour, 1 cup cornmeal, all the baking powder and salt
    • Set #2, streusel:  3/4 cup flour, 2 TBS cornmeal, all the cinnamon, pinch of table salt plus 1 cup of the sugar
  4. In a high sided bowl, beat 2 cups of sugar into the butter for at least two minutes, until fluffy and well combined
  5. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla and lemon zest
  6. Toss the blueberries with about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture (Set #1) You want those berries coated but not extra flour floating around
  7. Add half the remaining flour mixture to the batter bowl and stir until just combined
  8. Add all the sour cream/yogurt and stir until just combined
  9. Add the other half of the flour mixture and stir until just combined
  10. Taste batter. If you want it more lemony, add more zest
  11. Add coated blueberries and stir until just combined
  12. Add butter to streusel (Set #2) flour and combine using a pastry blender or fingers
  13. Put batter into muffin cups:
    • For cupcake sized muffins, about 1.5 heaping scoops using a large cookie scoop. Or fill the cup to 1/2 to 2/3 full, depending on how big you want your muffins
    • For big muffins, fill 1/2 to 2/3 full
    • For small, 3oz muffins, use small cookie scoop to fill cups 2/3 full. (Love those Simply Baked stand-alone baking cups when I’m in splurge mode. So, so pretty!)
    • Mini muffins: haven’t tried yet. Will update if I do
  14. Top each muffin with streusel:
    • For cupcake sized muffins, 1-2 teaspoons
    • For big muffins, about 1 TBS
    • For others, eyeball it. The streusel adds a yummy sweetness and crunch
  15. Bake on middle rack for about 35-40 minutes until cake tester comes out clean (note: streusel will cling to the tester so test a bit not covered in streusel)
  16. Allow muffins to cool in tin or turn out right away depending on your confidence level of doneness
  17. Plate and cover the quantity of muffins that will be eaten in the next two days and leave on the counter. Freeze the rest in a zip bag and take out as needed. These defrost quickly on the counter. Serve at room temperature or warm.


Blue? Green? Something Else?

So the slate blue chalk paint on the dining chairs just wasn’t working.  First I thought it was the brown fabric on the seats that wasn’t right. It was pretty but somehow, the beauty you could see when you really looked at it wasn’t coming out. And the slate blue in the design wasn’t coming out despite the chairs being that same blue. Humph.

Here's the slate blue version of the chairs. Hoped it would bring out the blue embroidery but . . .
Here’s the slate blue version of the chairs. Hoped it would bring out the blue embroidery but . . .
2015-05-23 12.36.43
. . . only the cat liked it.


Next step: I hacked up a favorite sarong and slapped that over it the brown. I love this sarong, so much that I almost made it into an ottoman cover. (Impractical, too much pet hair against the black. Somehow the Mints aren’t drawn to the dining chairs.)2015-05-23 13.00.16

It looked better – and I do love blue and black together – yet still not great. Time to try painting the chairs over.

Happily, Internet wisdom is if you waxed your chalk paint, you can repaint if the wax fully cured. Roughly, that means if the wax has been there three months, it’s no big deal. I sanded lightly anyway before starting.

The new fabric has a streak of . . . midnight? blue running through it so, hoping to bring that out and make the chairs fun, I took a strip of fabric to the paint store and got a sample to match. And this is the result:

2015-08-17 09.12.47

In some lights, it looks great and fun. In others, maybe a little too quirky. Also, I’m not sure anything will bring out that blue in the fabric. Is this too bright?

Shooting for more contrast, I decided to open up the paint options to green. Maybe it’s time to let go of my dream of blue chairs. So I mixed up some chalk paint with some leftover martini olive. The fabric does have several shades of green so even though it’s not an exact match . . .2015-08-17 09.14.36

Now I’m torn. This could go a couple ways.

1) All green. There’s something really nice about the all green. And the thing about having the chairs the same color is that there’s a serenity to the dining room that I want. The goal is to have a sort of pretty quiet little surprise in the dining area, a little fun. But I don’t want them to demand attention.

2) All blue. I’m leaning away from this one. Somehow it’s just not working, even though I was so careful about the match. Am I wrong? Is it me? Or does this blue demand too much attention?

3) Four colors? I could do the dark pink and a deeper green, black or white on the other two chairs so nothing is too matchy. But then, when I ruin the fabric as I — or the Mints — inevitably will, it will be hard to find a replacement that works with all four colors. Also, there’s the demand attention issue.

4) Two and two? Three and one? The question then is, are the blue and green to jarring against each other? Again with the demanding of attention?

What do you think? Now that I’m happy with the fabric, where should I go with the color issue?

2015-08-17 09.15.28


Look Out For Loons! Router-free Thrifty Frame!

At a yard sale recently I picked up this vintage plastic sign. A fan of yellow and red together, I thought it could brighten my basement study. Plus remind me and the Mints to look out for loons.

Plastic yard sale sign, salvaged from a program in Maine sometime in the past.
Plastic yard sale sign, salvaged from a program in Maine sometime in the past.

Ana White has a post called “Build a Barnwood Frame – $1 and 10 Minutes” that had caught my eye.  I was excited about it because while I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making a frame, I don’t have a router, which every other frame plan seems to call for. Though I was pretty sure it would cost me more than a buck and ten minutes, it seemed perfect for this. As usual, the plans were helpful and easy though it took me more than 10 minutes. For details, be sure to check  the Ana White website.

I’d already splashed out a $1.50 for the picture, so I was happy to find scrap 1×2 pieces in the lumber pile that would work for this. No pieces were long enough to frame the whole picture so I’d need to trim it to keep it cheap. I also already had leftover paint, nails and staples.

Once I figured out how much lumber I had — and how big the frame could be, it was time to start doing the miter cuts. I’m prone to errors so that meant measure thrice and do the big pieces first. The biggest pieces will be the outer frame so account for that in cutting.

Next I laid out the pieces against the picture to make sure they’d fit.

After I cut each piece, I laid it on top of the picture, pre-trimming, to make sure it would work.
After I cut each piece, I laid it on top of the picture, pre-trimming, to make sure it would work.
OK! Four sides done.

Next it was time to whip out that brad nailer and wood glue. Once the corners were clampled together, it was time to pop in the brads. Either my skills are getting better or I was lucky because this time, I only had to extract a couple of misfired nails!Clamping

Wood filler was next, to smooth out all those awkward gaps. My frame was going to be painted so I felt free to enthusiastically ladle it on.

Wood filler making the gaps disappear.
Wood filler making the gaps disappear!

Once it was dry, I sanded it well so it would be smooth for painting. It’s important to do this step now because once it’s joined to the outer frame, it’s hard to get to the very edges.

Now it was time to build the outer frame. This baby lines up perpendicular to the inner frame so it was a similar process, with the wood flipped onto its sides instead of laying it flat. Again, the Ana White plans have the details on getting it done.

Next it was time to build the outer frame.
Next it was time to build the outer frame.

Before cutting, it’s important to measure a couple of times and size it against the inner frame as you go. The two frames fitted together will look like the pic below. Remember that the outer frame is going to be about 1.5″ bigger than the inside frame.

Inner frame fit into the outer one.
Inner frame fit into the outer one.

When you join them, the inner frame needs to be a little inset — perhaps a fourth or half inch — so there’s a little lip. You don’t want it set too far in — for example, flush to the back — because you need room to mount the picture inside. Remember, there’s no router in this project so the outside/inside frame approach is how you get the inset you’d normally create with a router.

Note: my project didn’t call for glass inside the frame but you could use this approach to do it.

Attached framesOnce they’re joined, there’s more wood filler and sanding in your future. Because it was getting painted, I was an enthusiastic user of my random orbital sander.

Here's what it looks like pre-paint.
Here’s what it looks like pre-paint.
And now with paint.
And now with paint.

Gotta love paint. Keeps the rustic look and hides all the ugly. Once painted, I sprayed the frame with some Varathane. It wouldn’t change the rustic look too much and would make it a lot easier to dust . . .

Attach picture to frame.
Attach picture to frame.

I taped the top of the picture in and then just stapled it to the inner frame. I put dishcloth covered blocks under the inner frame before stapling — didn’t want the pressure of the staple gun to dislodge the inner frame (the dishcloths were for padding so it wouldn’t mark the painted frame).

Once that looked good, I FINALLY cut the bottom of the plastic picture off and stapled that in too.

Done! And if you look closely at the bottom right, you can see one of my misfire gouges. Good thing we’re calling this look “rustic.”

And now here it is in situ.

In situ. And an important warning when you come down the stairs. You never know where loons will lurk.
In situ. And an important warning when you come down the stairs. You never know where loons will lurk.

Plastic yard sale loon sign, salvaged from somewhere in Maine.

What about you? Have you tried making a frame before? Successes? Failures? Other ideas or plans for a router-free frame? Next I’m going to try this one with a fabric picture . . .

4th of July and a Boise Moment

I’m a patriot, and a fan of July 4th though our current environment of privacy abuse and the expanded powers of bullies worries me greatly.

Ahem, this is not just because I read “Little Brother” or watched Citizenfour or am addicted to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. But okay, I admit, they raise my awareness without boring me to tears so THANK YOU!

This holiday, my sister W was visiting and we hit the July 4th parade downtown. Not much to write home about parade-wise, but it does give you that 4th feeling. In the 100 degree heat, my nephew and I were sprawled in front of the capitol on the sidewalk, in a bit of shade while W and niece were trolling for candy thrown from the floats (good swag, Idaho Atheists and Hare Krishnas!). Nephew was unabashedly ignoring parade in favor of an electronic device and I was just lolling, with our half drunk lemonade cups strewn about.

I look up to see an officer of the law looming. Instantly I flash back to when another sister got censured for dipping her feet in the reflecting pool in DC one hot August midnight (that’s you, Toad). I wonder if I’m going to get cited for littering (not guilty, we’re still drinking those! And then we’re recycling, officer!). Maybe no one is supposed to just sit at the capitol without a permit. Maybe every electronic device is a suspected bomb switch so my nephew is about to lose his most prized posession.  After all, we are on high security alert at the airports this weekend. Ack!

Officer leans down and says, “Ma’am, I don’t know if you know this already but . . .” I tense. He continues, “the Capitol building is open today until five.  It’s cool there and there are water fountains inside.” Then he walks away to terrify someone else with this information.

And here’s a Boise fun fact: the pretty Capitol building, which is modeled on the one in D.C., is the only geothermically (sp?) heated capitol in the U.S. Just call us the Pompeii of the continental U.S.!

Egg Knobs

The Minnipin house had been a rental before it went up for sale. Only two probably-original door knobs were still here. One, a pretty glass one-way knob on the linen closet, the other a character-filled iron looking affair on the old, original door to the basement storage room. What was here was a range of brass, bronze and silver doorknobs, all keyed, probably for renter security.

The door knobs needed replacing, if not for aesthetics, for safety. Keys to all these doors hadn’t come with the house. I dreaded the moment I’d lock myself out of a room, or when a young child might lock itself in. I needed privacy knobs, but keyless ones.

Pretty glass knobs with privacy features were out of budget. Poking around for something actually appealing, I stumbled across egg shaped knobs on several home store sites. The more I read about them, the cooler they seemed. Turns out that egg shape is easier to turn than the standard round knob. I liked their old European vibe and the look. Egg it was going to be.

I settled on Schlage’s Siena Privacy Knobs in satin nickle (no fingerprints).

Install was easy, even for a first time door knob installer like me. The hardest part was working around all the dings and previous installs this almost 70 year-old house had endured. The second hardest part was patience. At around $24, I couldn’t do all the doors at once. So the upgrade was a one-a-month sort of thing. Both Amazon and Lowes were my sources, depending on prices at the time I bought each one.

Two years later, I’m loving these knobs. The inevitable lock out has happened a couple of times, easily solved with the pin release that comes with the set. They’re easy to use and keep clean. Part of me still wishes I had those pretty glass knobs from the fantasy upgrade. The eggs so clearly aren’t original to the house. But they work. They feel clean. They add a little pleasant interest.

Also, they made it easy to decide on little egg knobs for the kitchen cabinets. These cabinets might be original to the house. They seem like they were made in a time when people got excited about machine finishes and what a router and a jigsaw could do. Solid, if not super space efficient, they’re still going strong. Hole free, it was obvious that the cabinets had never had knobs or pulls.

For the kitchen, I settled on York Satin Nickel Cabinet Knobs. This was also part of my Interim Kitchen project. I wasn’t sure they were strictly necessary — the Minnipin house had been without all these years. Why now?

Hmm. Well, the first reason was function, ease of door opening. And a second was just that twitch to do something to make these cabinets a little fresher, since replacement wasn’t an option.

So, so glad I did the project! The nickel adds a little gleam to the kitchen overall, somehow making it look more ordered. Those slow moving drawers are much easier to handle now. Cleaning is simpler too, partly because the cabinet edges stay cleaner and the knobs are freshened with a quick swipe.

These pulls have been great. So great I used the extras from the kitchen project to replace a couple folding closet door pulls, and even for the basement storage unit.

Yay! Overstock was my source for the pulls, which are sold in handy packs of 25. Average cost is $2.50 per.

No one has paid me to say any of this. I’m just loving my crazy little egg knobs.






$10 Lighting Scores

I’ve decided to make this a Thing, a Thrifting Thing. So this will be an ongoing post.

Background: I’m determined to replace the builder grade nipple lights that the rehabbers stuck into this 1947 cottage. I love getting a good deal, appreciate a little sparkle, and think great lighting is necessary. Can the cottage be brightened and lightened with seriously cheap thrifted lights?

Builder grade nipple light installed all over the cottage. Craftsman look wrong for low ceilings and cottage style home
Builder grade nipple light installed all over the cottage. Craftsman look wrong for low ceilings and cottage style home

I hope so. Now the hunt is on to do exactly that. $10 for light fixtures seems like a good, reach number. Not easy, but with luck and persistence, doable.

Two main challenges:

  • Slim wallet
  • Flush mount is just about all that works. This Minnipin house has low (about 7.5′) ceilings. Anything that goes up can’t be too big.

Score one: pretty guest bedroom crystal chandelier, $10, ReStore

ReStore Chandelier installed
ReStore Chandelier installed. Lit, it shoots daggers of light all over the small room.
Here are the cool spikes the guest room chandelier throws off at nightl
Here are the cool spikes the guest room chandelier throws off at night.

2015-06-05 22.11.00

Score two: Vintage welcoming pineapple-look light for front entryway, $10, plant and moving sale. Just short enough for the door to clear it. Just.

Here's the moving sale light!
Here’s the moving sale light!
All lit up! Bright and swirly.
All lit up! Bright and swirly.

Score three: Outdoor wrought-iron chandelier, $10, garage sale. $2 for hanging links. So this one went over budget if you count the chain needed to hang it from the branch. While I don’t use candles on it to light the table too often (it gets dark late here), I love the sense of presence it gives the dining area. Also, it sort of bounces with the branch in a high wind. In everyday life, now I get to see my beloved little quartz eggs whenever I go outside.

Wrought iron outdoor chandelier. When not in actual use, I leave quartz eggs in the spot for the candles. Because it looks funny to me.
Wrought iron outdoor chandelier. When not in actual lit candle use, I leave quartz eggs in the spots where the candles go. For no good reason.
Even without candles lit, I like the presence the chandelier gives the table.
Even without candles lit, I think the chandelier adds to a feeling of an outdoor room.

Stay tuned for more thrifty lighting finds . . .


Chalk Painted Electric Fireplace

My basement always runs 10 degrees cooler than the main floor of the house. Nice in the summer. Less so in the depths of winter. The bunker needed something to warm it up, both for a little localized actual heat and for the welcoming feeling a flicker of flame can provide.

On the someday list is adding a gas fireplace. For now, an electric fireplace or just a space heater would be the only options. I preferred a fireplace for safety and aesthetic reasons. The trouble was, I just could not bring myself to open my wallet to drop $300-$500 on the kind of unit that would look good and warm up that space. And they were mostly unappealing to me, with that faux wood/veneer look they all seem to have.

You know where this is going! It was time to lurk around Craigslist and see what could be found. It turns out that Summer is a good time to shop for this sort of thing in the classifieds. Without too much looking, I found one in good condition last summer.

Still, not a look I loved. But at the el cheapo Craigslist price, painting didn’t feel like an affront. Regular paint wouldn’t work over that hard poly finish most electric fireplaces have. But chalk paint, with its superior adhesion, could fix all that.

Roanoke 23 in. Convertible LED Electric Fireplace - Oak

I used the great recipes from In My Own Style to get the job done.

So here it is. In the winter or when there are overnight guests, it adds some nice, quick warmth to the basement. The electric flame is janky but cheerful. I even kind of love it, which is not something I ever thought I’d say about a fake fireplace.

Chalk painted fireplace. Sealed with Miniwax Finishing Paste.
Chalk painted fireplace. Sealed with Miniwax Finishing Paste.

Now I just have to decide whether to turn my parent’s brass candlesticks into lamps . . .

What about you? Have you refreshed an electric fireplace unit? How did it work out?