Friday, May 6, 2016

Back soon?

I've been dealing with some health stuff--nothing terrible, just a reoccurance of my back problems and what is probably sciatica. (Note to self: call the doctor, should probably verify that or something.) I was also sick with sinus and throat stuff the entire winter, from about October to March. I think I've gained thirty pounds from eating nothing but mashed potatoes and oatmeal for six months. All of that has put a damper on me doing much of anything physical beyond what I have to do to keep us from living in squalor.

We've also been mostly at a standstill on almost everything house-related because of a) the aforementioned health problems, b) the yearly "should we sell" debate, and c) needing to get the foundation fixed before we do anything else. We finally got a home equity line of credit, so we should be able to resolve C soon. The answer to B is probably going to be "no" again, like it always is (nothing we like on the market, as usual), and A...well, A might be the sticking point. But if I work slowly--even more slowly than I usually do--I might be OK. We'll see what the doctor says. As soon as I call her. I am feeling a little bit better, though, learning my limits etc etc. So I have a little bit of hope that I might be able to get back to doing stuff around here soon and, consequently, posting on the blog.

As for what I've been working on, or what I've been planning to work on, I'm redoing at least Baby Girl's and Mr. Man's rooms. Yaya's room doesn't really need a full redo just yet, maybe a minor refresh, but I don't know if/when I'll do anything substantial in there. We did move his loft bed out and put his old bed back in, but that's about it.

We might get to do some work in the backyard and put up our pool this year; it just depends on how much the foundation ends up costing and how much it will cost to cut down the trees back there. I want to cut down all the trees on our property (only four--a black walnut, a pine, a honey locust, and a maple that I think is a silver maple--but all of them are very tall, in stupid places, and very messy) but I doubt we'll be able to get to the front two (the pine and maple) this year. We need to cut down the two trees in the back and jackhammer up the patio to put in the pool. I'm not sure it's required, but I'd like to install another outdoor outlet for the pool. That might require us putting in a new subpanel inside (I think that would run about $1000), I'm not sure. The garage is wired mostly with an extension cord (thanks previous owners!), but there is an outlet that seems to be properly installed--it's not GFCI, but it is in an outdoor outlet box--but it's on the wrong side of the garage so maybe we could just get that moved. Of course that will involve digging a trench and stuff, but that's got to be cheaper than installing a new subpanel. We will have $3300 at the most to do all that, which is why I'm not holding my breath on getting everything done. I'm not even going to add "put a cute wooden cottage fence around the front yard" to the list.

We're also planning to switch rooms in the basement (again, for the millionth time) and fully finish the basement. I can't imagine that we'll get to the finishing this year; I just don't see it being in the budget or my schedule of maximum two hours of physical work a day, including cooking, cleaning, and child care. It'd be nice to get the basement finishing done before winter, but I'm not holding my breath.

I'd love to do a quick kitchen refresh, too. Nothing much, but I'd like to finalize the footprint in there and replace the floor (again) because I hate the one we have in there now. Amusingly (or annoyingly, whichever), when I was going through the tool area yet again, I found an entire box of the discontinued tile that prompted me to put down the hated floor I have in there right now. (I went to look for a post about the new kitchen floor to link here, but apparently I hate it so much I never wrote about it. That seems right. You can see a picture of it on Baby Girl's fourth birthday party post, though.) I had completely forgotten I had any tile down there--there were actually three boxes of various tile there. So...oops.

That's enough of a list to keep me busy for a while. I feel like I've lost a few years, but I guess that happens.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Baby Girl's fourth birthday party

We had Baby Girl's birthday party three weeks ago a month ago and I haven't been able to focus on writing long enough to sit down and finish the post about it until now. (And then I got halfway done with the post and got busy again until now, so let's hope I can get it done today.)

On the kids' birthdays, we let them pick out a piece of cake from the bakery. Baby Girl chose carrot, much to B's dismay. I don't know why; carrot is my favorite, and apparently hers, too. Now I want carrot cake.

Her party was a few weeks after her birthday. We get fewer and fewer people at the kids' parties each year. I don't know, next year maybe we'll just go to Chuck E. Cheese. But anyway. It was kind of train-themed and Baby Girls' favorites-themed. So train-shaped cookies, popcorn with candy in it, strawberries, and "train cars" of Oreos and more candy.

For her cake (chocolate this time, sorry Bub), my mom sent me a picture of a cake with mini Thomas trains on Kit Kat tracks so you know I had to do that. I made a waterfall out of a cupcake (vanilla, for Yaya because he doesn't like chocolate cake) and some Oreo crumbs on the back to be dirt or rocks or something.

Someone has been in the strawberries.

Stealing either strawberries or Oreos, or maybe both.

Present time! Bring on the Thomas track sets.

Aaaand party's over, time to play.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The February Five

We all have those projects that have been hanging around for a while, maybe they're partially done or maybe they'd only take ten minutes to do but you just haven't started. I probably have more of these than most people, so I decided to create some accountability for myself and do a post about five of them that I think I can finish this month. It's going to be hard choosing just five, actually, since there are so many things to do around here.

I've been having back problems again so I haven't gotten nearly as much done around here as I've wanted to for the past four years few months. I think the issues this time are posture-related and not spine- or herniated-disc related, so that's good. Doesn't make it hurt any less, though, and by the time I get my few hours of free time while Baby Girl is at school I'm about done for the day. Hopefully by limiting my projects to five things I really want to get done, I'll eliminate some of the pointless flitting from project to project that always happens.

So anyway. Here are my five projects for February.

1. Finish painting Mr. Man's room. I don't remember when I started this, but I'm pretty sure it was actually this year, so it hasn't been unfinished for long. It's kind of difficult to find time to do this when Baby Girl isn't around, but I'm chipping away at it. Now I just need to finish it.

2. Finish Baby Girl's Barbie house. Or at least make some progress on it.

3. Finish my mom's birthday present. Her birthday was January 26, so I really need to speed this along. Of course, I have projects I've been working on for her for years, so this is really just a blip on the radar when you look at the big picture.

4. Fix the baseboard in the bathroom. There are a few spots missing baseboard (I have them, they're just not installed) and I cannot for the life of me get a nail to catch the framing on the longer pieces. So...this might be an ongoing project. Oh, and they desperately need to be painted again. As does the bathroom, because I don't like that green anymore, but let's not let scope creep get the upper hand today.

5. Recaulk the bathtub. Needs to be done yet again. Forgot to buy painter's tape when I was at the store today. Crap.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Connecting two Barbie houses, part two

Unlike many other projects I have, I have actually been working on this since I wrote about it last. Mostly I've been thinking about it, what finishes I want, where I want the rooms to be, how to make it cute but withstand a toddler, etc etc.

I kind of got hung up on the wiring aspect of it. I would really like to have it as a house where you flip a switch and lights turn on, but after a lot of research, I've decided to stick with battery-powered LED puck lights that you push to turn on. Womp-womp, anticlimactic, I know. First, there's cost. It's not really expensive, or it doesn't have to be, but nor is it what I'd consider super cheap. The wiring supplies alone run about $35 (you can get them for 40% off at Hobby Lobby if you want to make multiple trips, of course) but the hardest part, in my opinion, is finding dollhouse lights that don't look ridiculous in a Barbie house.

Let's say you're doing round wiring, not tape wiring. First, you have to collect all your light fixtures, and it's much easier to find those in 1:12 scale (dollhouse scale) than 1:6 scale (Barbie scale). If you decide to make all your fixtures that's more time added, assuming you decide on something that's a little involved (always the path I choose). You decide all of your lights are going to be hard-wired--you can wire dollhouse lights to have little outlets in the room the light goes in, but you decide against that because you know this is for a three-year-old. You have to carve your channels for your wire (not the easiest thing in this house), take the tiny plug-ins off the wire on your light fixtures, run the wire, put the tiny plug-ins back on your wire, plug everything in to a dollhouse power strip, figure out a way to hide the power strip so your daughter can't yank the cords out, wire the power strip to a transformer lead-in wire with a switch (because there's a switch on the tiny power strip, but you don't want your toddler messing with that), wire it to a transformer, and finally plug it all in. Also, this particular Barbie house is open on most sides which makes wires harder to hide, though I do plan to change some of that. The thing that really decided it for me was when I realized that the only outlet in the room was pretty far away from the house and the cord would either be stretched taut or wouldn't reach at all. If you want to do it, I think this is a pretty good tutorial, and it shows you how to make pretty simple Barbie scale light fixtures.

Baby Girl has four LED puck lights in there right now. I think they all run on three AAA batteries, and I have worried about their lifespan. I need to change to rechargeables in all of them because some are starting to dim. They still have whatever cheap batteries they came with right now. If not rechargeables (they take three AAAs each and I'm 99% sure we don't have that many) then at least something better quality than what's in there. The thing I don't like, though, is that I bought different brands and the LEDs are obviously different color temperatures. Also, they're not the easiest thing to push on in the positions that they're in, and I had to kind of stick them in weird places based on where the ceiling was flat enough for the adhesive on the backs to work. Here's a shot of where they are in the kitchen. I forgot to get a picture of the other side.

The back one is pretty dim because the batteries are going dead, and you can see that they're just stuck wherever. I haven't decided yet if matboard would be an acceptable ceiling material or if I should go for some 1/8" plywood. I'm afraid matboard would crease when you push on it to turn on the light.

Here's a shot of the lights from the front. These pictures are all kind of deceiving and I'm a little shocked that they're as bright as they are. It's pretty dark in the toy room and these don't do a good job of showing that.

I'm getting way ahead of myself, though. There's a lot to do before we need to worry about lights. First we need to worry about setup. I never really liked the way I had it last time, so the best way to deal with that is to change it. I've been working on insulating the joist spaces in the basement and had a 30x96 piece of 1" rigid foam insulation left over. I put it on top of the piece of MDF the houses currently lived on and tested the layout I had decided on.

They might be a little too far apart.

I also toyed with the idea of multiple levels, like a sunken living room or a raised front yard so Barbie could have a pool. Raising the front yard would require raising the whole board, so I'd need to have almost another full sheet of insulation. Of course it should be easy to add later, which means it won't be. I still haven't decided which way I want to go on this. I do want to leave this side with two layers of foam.

I'm going to trim it down so it's not the full front-to-back width of the board, though. It's supposed to be a function of the house, not of the board. I'm not sure if I'll just have a step on the interior side or on both the interior and the front.

You can see here that there's already kind of a built-in step.

I was thinking about trying to recess the house into the foam so that little lip at the front is more flush with the "ground" and also as a way to keep the house in place, but I'd want the step and the foam to be the same depth, and I don't think they would be. I'll have to measure, but if I can't recess the house fully then I'll fill in under that front lip with some scrap foam and make that part of the foundation.

You may have noticed that one of the front doors is missing. I thought I had a spare, but I don't. At some point, the little tiny plastic piece that holds the door into its frame got broken off. I don't know how because it's seriously a tiny plastic dot roughly the size of a pin head. But anyway, it's broken, so I have to do something to build that back up. Maybe a cut-off pin head heated and stuck in there? That's another thing that I'll have to do some guessing on.

I'm going to have to put this on the back burner for a few weeks; my mom's birthday is next week so I need to work on her gift. I assume I will post about that sometime before June, but these days, who knows?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

I'm a little bit late on both of those, but the kids went back to school on Monday and I've just now had a chance to breathe. Baby Girl and I were both sick over Christmas, and I'm still sick, so projects have mostly hit the back burner. We have done a little rearranging (what a shocker) but I don't have pictures of that yet.

Not too many Christmas pictures this year. Yaya will not be shown; he doesn't want his picture posted anywhere. I don't know if he knows I have a blog, but I know he doesn't want them on Facebook and that's close enough to the same thing for me.

Christmas morning.

(Yes, we give our kids cereal as stocking stuffers. We don't buy it otherwise, so to get a bunch of little boxes is a treat for them. They also got Pop-Tarts in their stockings for the same reason.)

Baby Girl when she saw her new train set. She is very into trains now.

Sorting out the presents.

I think the headphones were the first gift Mr. Man opened. He wore them the whole time.

I like this one because of the cat under the tree. She's a good assistant.

We didn't do anything except eat junk food for New Year's Eve. We never have; we're not going-out-on-New-Year's-Eve people. We are eat-junk-food-on-New-Year's-Eve people, though, all five of us. Handy, right?

So we're caught up to now. I need to start thinking about Baby Girl's fourth birthday party. I keep remembering that her birthday is coming up then completely forgetting for a few days. I must be in some sort of denial. I hope to get a new house tour up soon, although maybe we should just say the end of June for the anniversary and call it good, because I have a lot to do. I'm also still working on combining the two Barbie houses; I haven't forgotten. I would like to have something up for that next week, but we'll see. I've been fighting viruses and colds and sinus infections and pinkeye for almost a month now; my energy is slightly low, to say the least. I finally bit the bullet and went to the doctor for antibiotics, so let's hope for a full recovery very very soon.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Making a horse head wreath

Life pro tip from me, you guys: don't make something with the intent of posting a tutorial, take kind of bad pictures (without realizing it), and then put off writing the tutorial on the project for a year. Because not only will you only have crappy pictures to look back on, you will probably have forgotten a lot about how you made it. I guess that's a life pro tip and a caveat to keep in mind as you read this post.

So last Christmas, I was having absolutely no luck finding a gift for my mother. Both my parents are the typical "have everything they want and will just buy it if they find something they want during the year" people. As I've written before, she's really into horses--she has five or six--and she had shown me a picture of a horse wreath she liked a little bit before Christmas. That one suggested using candy cane wreaths turned a certain way to make a horse head shape, but she couldn't find any candy cane wreaths and neither could I. It eventually clicked that this was a gift I could get her, but at the time I didn't really want to make anything. That was kind of true for a lot of 2014. And 2015. But I digress. I looked into buying one, but the only ones I could find went for about $150. That is not in my budget, even for my mother, whom I love dearly. So, a day or two before Christmas, I decided to make one. I found this tutorial so I didn't have to reinvent the wheel, although I did make a few of my own changes. It wasn't that hard; I remember it being maybe three hours of work, most of which was tying the garland.

Most of the horse wreaths I saw were pretty understated. I didn't want that. The horse on my wreath would be dressed for the season. She's the type of horse that gets ribbons braided in her mane, preferably glittery ribbons. She was going to a Christmas party and wanted you to know. I kept this in mind as I bought my supplies. I got everything at Hobby Lobby, except for the hardware cloth, and of course it was all 50% off. I don't remember the exact cost, but I'm guessing under $20. I think right now all this stuff is 66% off at Hobby Lobby, so it would be even cheaper.

I bought two types of garland (a regular wired type for the head, and a finer type for the mane), a few types of wired ribbon*, floral wire, and some ornaments and pearl garland in red and gold, because that's my mom's favorite Christmas color scheme. I made sure to choose ornaments that weren't too round, since I knew this would hang between the front door and the storm door.

*The gold ribbon that I used wasn't wired, but that's because I had it already. If I were buying it new, I would have bought wired.

Start out by finding a horse head silhouette you like online and print it out. I don't remember, but I probably used the same method as here to change the size. Duck tape it to your hardware cloth. (The other tutorial uses wire mesh, but I used hardware cloth. No reason.)

I marked the outline with a Sharpie and left the paper in place for as much of the cutting as I could. I used tin snips to cut it out, then covered the outer edge with wide masking tape. I tried to cut off any sharp points that weren't necessary to maintaining the shape of the head. I think the ears were really the only place that I couldn't cut everything off; your garland will be doing a lot of the work of showing the shape of the head.

I followed the other tutorial as far as the pattern to attach the garland in (she uses a serpentine pattern). I think I'm showing you how I attached a new piece of garland here. Pull it through to the back and wire it flat.

Progress. Note that I'm leaving space for the mane.

Bend your floral wire into a C shape. Remember, cut it longer than you need. It's much easier to deal with excess wire than not enough.

Aaaaand I skipped a bunch of steps, so here's the finished wreath!

The "bridle" is made of wired ribbon, twisted and held in place (on itself, not on the wreath) with a dot of hot glue on the back. I honestly don't remember if I hot glued it in place or wired it in place. I probably hot glued it, but you could easily glue a C of floral wire to the back of some of the twists and wire it into place. That's probably a better idea.

In case you did not grow up making looped bows (with paper ribbon! Anyone else remember that? It was fun to untwist, unless you got too rough and tore it and your mom yelled at you) here's a tutorial. It was kind of a pain to make these bows because I was constantly fighting against the non-wired ribbon. If I were doing it again, I'd only use wired ribbon.

I put the ornaments on the wire I attached to the bow to wire it to the wreath. You might need to shorten the string on the front ornament to make sure the back ornament shows well enough, although both of mine were fine.

A better picture of the bottom of the wreath, though still not great. The reins are wired on the back on each side and are just loose on the front. I also used the wire that came with the hardware cloth to make a hanger on the back. I just cut a long piece and wired it at each end, next to the tape, just making sure to place it so that the wreath would hang straight.

I will try and get a better picture of this hanging up at my mom's. Baby Girl has pinkeye so we will be home for Christmas, but I'm pretty sure Mom will have her decor up for a little while longer. I just need to make sure it doesn't take me until Christmas 2016 to add the new picture.

Monday, December 14, 2015

So, should I just backdate a bunch of posts and pretend I was never gone?

How long have I been gone? Let me check; I don't even know.

Wow, almost four months. Obviously a lot happened between then and now. Back to school, the boys' birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and now we're almost to Christmas. B's birthday is tomorrow. I think we're more or less leveled out and into our routine (knock on wood), so I'm hoping to write more often now. It might not be until after Christmas since I still have a few gifts to finish (read: haven't even started). I do have one tutorial that is seasonal, so I should probably get that written up and posted. Until then, here is a picture of my obese cat.

Hey, I still know how to format pictures! Well, at least that's something.