How I organize recipes

Open shelving in the kitchen for cookbooks

One of my favourite features of the island we added to the kitchen is the open shelving on the end that holds our cookbooks.

The books add a splash of colour to the wood and white of the kitchen. The shelves keep them organized and easily accessible. Plus I love cookbooks. I will sit and read them like a magazine or novel. (And, yes, you’re not imagining. The upper shelf is sagging a bit under the weight of all of our cookbooks).

However, not all of my recipes reside in cookbooks. I have a bunch of printouts from recipes I’ve found online (I haven’t progressed to a tablet yet), clippings from the newspaper or magazines, even a few hand-written recipes from family and friends.

To keep these recipes organized, I returned to the lessons learned in school–binders, dividers and page protectors.

A couple of weeks ago, I added a bunch of new recipes to my collection, so I thought I’d share my organization method with you.

How to organize recipes

First are the binders. I have three major categories which each get their own binder: Appetizers and Sides, Entrees, Desserts and Sweets. Entrees outgrew its single binder and is now split into two books. I use different colours for each grouping.

How to organize recipes

Within each binder, I’ve divided the recipes into subcategories.

In appetizers, the sections are appetizers, soups, salads, sides, snacks, breads and drinks. For entrees, I divided them into pork, pasta, sandwiches, beef, fish, vegetarian, poultry, other meats (venison, lamb), breakfast. Desserts starts with the most important, chocolate, and then goes to cookies, “buns” and bars (including muffins), cakes, pies, fruit, custards and Christmas.

How to organize recipes

The recipes themselves are stored in plastic page protectors. I’m not the tidiest cook, so the plastic sleeves protect the paper from spills and splashes.

However, it’s easy to slide the recipe out of the plastic and add notes about what worked, what didn’t or what adjustments I made.

How to organize recipes

Beyond the binders, I also use magazine holders to organize the smaller pamphlets and cookbooks I’ve collected over the years. I got two wooden holders from Ikea and stained them to match the countertop and cabinets.

Wood magazine holder

I love having my recipes organized.

In fact, I was so inspired that I flipped through the dessert binder and whipped up one of my favourite fall recipes, spiced apple muffins, using the apples my friend gave me from her own tree.

Apple spice muffins

With my recipes all organized, I feel ready to move on from fall baking on to Christmas baking.

Are you doing any baking, either fall or Christmas? How do you organize your recipes?

How to reuse old carpet

A few weeks ago you caught a glimpse of our redone basement. We put it back together after our waterproofing contractors finished their work.

Wall repaired after waterproofing

Fortunately, the carpet and underpad were not damaged  by the leaks, so we were able to reuse them. (Although they could use a good cleaning).

Our contractors had folded the carpet back out of the way while they were doing their work.


After giving everything–the carpet, the underpad, the concrete–a really good vacuum we were able to unfold the underpad and lay it back down over the concrete. The vacuum is critical. You don’t want to discover any bumps under your carpet once you’re finished installing it, so make sure everything is really clean and smooth.

How to reuse old carpet

The next step was to install new tackstrips, also known as smoothedge. The tackstrips are what hold the carpet in place. The underpad provides the guide of where to install the strip. Tackstrips come in two different versions–one for wood subfloor and one for concrete. Make sure you buy the right type for your floor.

Line the tackstrip up with the edge of the underpad with the little spikes pointing in towards the wall. Hammer the small nails in the tack strip into your floor. With our new concrete from the waterproofing, we found the nails did not want to go in. We ended up gluing the tackstrips to the concrete with construction adhesive.

Installing carpet tack strip

Once the glue was set, we unfolded the carpet and laid it over the tack strips. It’s important to stretch your carpet tightly. For this, you need a carpet kicker. I’ll share how you can make your own kicker in an upcoming post.

The idea is you lay your kicker on the carpet and using your knee you kick the carpet towards the wall. While the carpet is stretched tight, run your hands over the edge to press it onto the tack strip. You should feel the carpet catch on the spikes. As you get towards the corner, kick on a bit of a diagonal to push the carpet towards both walls.

How to reuse old carpet

You’ll notice that we installed the carpet before we put the baseboard back on. Usually you will have baseboard or trim in place already. In those spots, use a chisel to tuck the carpet in under the trim. (You can see some of the water damage we have on the base of the door trim. It has since been covered with fresh paint.)

How to reuse old carpet

And that’s all there is to it. I’m so grateful that we were able to reuse the carpet. This carpet goes through the whole basement, so redoing this one area would not have been an option. Plus installing it ourselves was a quick and easy DIY.

Have you ever installed carpet yourself?




How to add a harp to a lamp

My thrift store lamp that you met on Friday had a lot of things going for it, especially after its spray paint makeover. However, there was one thing missing that I didn’t notice until the very end: the harp.

The harp is the little bracket that goes around the light bulb and holds the lampshade.

I admit, I was a little intimidated by the prospect of installing a harp. I hear about a lot of people rewiring lamps, but I’ve never attempted that myself. It turns out it’s not hard. In fact, I just started trying to take the lamp apart and was able to figure it out pretty much on my own.

Step one was to remove the socket from the lamp base. It just unscrewed, and the cord was loose enough that I was able to pull it out a little bit.

Removing the socket from a lamp

The wire was still buried deep in the socket, so I started trying to figure out how to access it. A close examination revealed a seam in the middle of the socket. You can see it partially opened here.

Removing the socket from a lamp

The socket easily unscrewed, and I could see where the wires attached to two screws. I could also see a really intimidating knot. Gulp.

Taking apart a lamp socket

A couple of turns loosened the screws enough to unhook the wires. Quick tip: I marked which wire went to which screw (one’s gold and one’s silver) by straightening the gold one and leaving the silver one hooked.

Taking apart a lamp socket

I was really, really hoping to not untie that knot, but in order to remove the bottom part of the socket–never mind putting on the harp–I had to. With the knot untied, the socket easily slid off and the harp bracket easily slid on.

How to add a harp to a lamp

After that, it was a (relatively) easy process of reassembling the socket. I slid the bottom part of the socket back into place. I retied the knot. (Okay, this was a bit complicated.) It turns out the knot is called an underwriters knot. I watched this animation a few times as I was tying my own knot. I hooked the wires back over their screws, and then screwed everything back together. I had a reassembled lamp that now included the bottom part of the harp.

How to add a harp to a lamp

The upper part of the harp slid onto the bottom bracket and I gave myself a congratulatory pat on the back.

How to add a harp to a lamp

And then I had to choose a lampshade. Last week I asked for your input, white or grey. So what did I end up choosing?

I went with the grey. It was pretty much the universal favourite last week, and I decided that I liked its flared shape best.

Purple lamp with flared grey shade

And another detail on the basement comes together. Slowly but surely I will finish this space.

Have you ever rewired a lamp? What DIY projects do you find intimidating?

Linking up to #DIYLightingChallenge

How to remove a belly mower from a Kioti CS2410

Every year, twice a year, Matt and I get up close and personal with our little tractor, Wiley. Attaching the mower deck in the spring and detaching it in the fall are pretty intimate operations.

Just a refresher, Wiley is a Kioti CS2410. His mower deck is a Kioti SM2410. It’s a belly mower, meaning it rides under Wiley’s middle (as opposed to the mowers that are towed behind a tractor).

How to detach a Kioti SM2410 mower

I thought this year that I’d finally properly document the process. I’ve tried to do this for the past few years, but attaching and detaching is always a bit stressful. See how concerned Baxter is when we did this two years ago?

Baxter helping to remove the mower deck

I usually feel like it’s better for my marriage if I don’t try to prep a blog post at the same time as we’re installing or removing the deck.

That’s not to say this is an overly complicated undertaking. It’s just an undertaking that is a bit tricky in spots.

Here are the steps to remove the mower deck from the tractor:

1. This whole operation will be dramatically aided by level ground (which does not exist at the farm). So, step 1: park the tractor on level ground… or at least the levelest ground you can find.

2. Start with the mower raised but set at the shortest cutting setting.

Cutting settings on a Kioti CS2410

3. Turn the wheels that support the deck so that they’re perpendicular (90 degrees) to the tractor’s wheels. Pop out the pins and rotate the wheels.

How to detach a Kioti SM2410 mower

Repin them in the highest position–meaning the mower is as high off the ground as you can get it, i.e. the pins are in the bottom hole on the sleeve.

Pin in the bottom hole

4. Disconnect the PTO. Push the shiny gold collar towards the mower deck (forwards), and pull it off the shaft. The person with the longest arms should do this (i.e. Matt), as the PTO is right in the middle under the tractor, and you have to reach over the deck and around the back wheel to reach it.

PTO on a Kioti CS2410

5. Lower the deck–use the three-point lever, not the cutting height lever. Give the deck a good shake to make sure it’s all the way down. You do not want this thing falling on you. It will crush you. (Not quite the same, but I have this line in my head now and I can’t resist. Plus, it’s one of Matt’s favourite movies.)

6. Pull the pins that attach the deck to the tractor. There are three on each side. The quick connect pins at the front and back are on springs. Just pull them out and turn them out of the way. The other pins at the very front have split rings that you have to remove first.

Quick connect spring pins on a Kioti CS2410

Cotter pins on a Kioti CS2410

The pins are when things get stressful for us. The deck is super heavy. And if you’re not on level ground, there’s invariably some weight still resting on the pins. So sometimes they just don’t want to come out, no matter how hard we yank on them.

There are two techniques we’ve found to help: one, slide some blocks under the deck to help support the weight. Use trial and error to find out where you need them–front or back, starboard or port.

Tips to remove a Kioti CS2410 mower deck

The second solution is tried and true: the hammer. Tap (as gently as you can given your current frustration levels and your limited maneuverability under the tractor).

It’s a wonderful feeling when the pins pop free. You will end up with two metal arms that hold the deck to the front of the tractor. Those arms should stay with the deck. Don’t lose them. You’ll need them if you ever want to cut grass again. (And just a note for when it comes time to reattach them, the springs point in).

Kioti SM2410 mower deck arms

7. Raise the mower using the three-point lever to fully detach the deck. At this point the deck should not be connected to the tractor, but still sitting under the tractor. Use the front end loader to lift the tractor up a little bit–just enough to give you clearance to slide out the deck. (Put the parking brake on–safety first!)

Use the front end loader to lift the front wheels off the ground

8. Push, push, push and pull, pull, pull the deck out from under the tractor, and you’re good!

How to detach a Kioti SM2410 mower

Well, you’ll probably want to tip up the deck, scrape the dried up crusty grass from the underside, hit it with the hose, inspect the blades and grease all of the fittings.

Scraping grass out of a mower

Cleaning the mower deck

Just to be safe, we also tuck the PTO into a plastic bag to keep dirt out of it.

Protect the PTO with a plastic bag

But do all that, and you’re done. And you don’t have to cut grass for another few months. (Don’t mention attaching the snowblower).

Time for a victory dance! (Wow, Bax was skinny that first year).

Victory dance

What type of mower do you use at your house? Have you tucked your mower away for the season yet? Do you have any jobs that put your relationship to the test? Do you have a sidekick who helps (and celebrates) the tough jobs?

Making DIY dropcloth curtains – 8 lessons learned

In the last post, you saw the easy layered window treatments in the master bedroom. I promised more details on the dropcloth curtains I made.

Blackout blind, bamboo blind and drop cloth curtain window treatments

There are lots of tutorials out there on how to make dropcloth curtains. So I’m not going to write one here. Plus, I totally made these up as I went along, so a tutorial doesn’t really exist. I did want to share some of the things I learned from making my DIY curtains, though.

How to make dropcloth curtains

1. Dropcloths come with seams. I assumed that my 9 by 12 foot dropcloth would be one single piece of fabric. It wasn’t. All of my dropcloths had a seam down the middle. One had a centre seam plus an additional patch along one end.

For my two widest curtain panels, I just left the seam alone. It’s a bit thicker than I would like and a wee bit puckered, but I decided I could live with it if it was hidden in the folds of the curtains.

For the other curtains, my seam ripper and I spent some quality time pulling out the stitching.

Ripping out the seam on a dropcloth

2. Dropcloths come with holes. The canvas fabric of the dropcloths is not perfect. The rustic quality of the weave and the few strands of blue and red that were here and there are some of the elements I like best about using this fabric.

However, in a couple of spots my dropcloths went beyond rustic and veered into unraveled. So if you want to make anything out of dropcloths, check them over carefully. You don’t want to end up with a hole in the middle of your project.

3. Wash and iron before you start. Pre-washing your fabric is a basic tenant of sewing. I didn’t want my curtains shrinking (not that they’re going to be washed often) after I put the effort into making them, so I washed my fabric before I started sewing.

Dropcloth fabric is heavy duty. As a result, it wrinkles easily and the creases are really difficult to remove. I found that ironing the dropcloths when they were still damp from the washer helped to remove the worst of the wrinkles.

4. Use curtain tape. (Britt, this tip’s for you). From what I hear, making pinch pleat curtains is pretty tedious. Lots of measuring and calculating. A much easier solution is to use curtain tape. This is a kind of mesh fabric strip with channels on the back. You pair it with some special multi-pronged hooks, and it basically forms the pleats for you. I bought mine at a local fabric store.

The pleats are softer than they would be if you sewed them without the tape, but that was okay for my rustic fabric and my farm setting.

I sewed the tape along the edge of one of my dropcloths, put in the hooks and voilà, pinch pleat curtains.

Using curtain tape to make pinch pleat curtains

Using curtain tape to make pinch pleat curtains

Using curtain tape to make pinch pleat curtains

Pinch pleat dropcloth curtains

You can space your pleats as far apart or as close together as you want. I left one empty “pocket” for a space of about 6 inches between each pleat.

Pinch pleat dropcloth curtains

5. Use curtain tape to measure your curtains. Before I sewed the curtain tape onto my fabric, I formed all of my pleats until I had a strip that was as wide as I wanted my curtains to be. Then I cut the curtain tape at that length, removed the pleats and used the tape to measure the dropcloth fabric.

6. There are different types of hooks. The magic pleat-making hooks are very handy. They come in two different forms (there may be more, but I tried two). Whatever form you choose, the hooks hook onto the rings that go on your curtain rod. Option 1 has the hooks at the end, so the curtains hang a bit below the rings. Option 2 has the hooks in the middle, so the top of the curtain hangs up against the rings. This is the type of hook I ended up using.

There are also special non-pleating hooks (just plain single hooks) to hold up the ends of the curtains where there are no pleats.

7. Take your time hemming. I wanted my curtains to just brush the floor. For my first set, I hung the curtains, found the spot where they met the floor, and then I used a ruler to measure the rest of my hem from that point. The result was curtains that were the right length at one or two spots, but for the most part they scuffed, not brushed the floor.

Curtains hitting the floor

For my second set of panels and for the bed skirt that I also made out of dropcloths, I skipped the measuring tape. Instead, I used pins to mark the fabric at about 1/4 to 1/2 inch off the floor. I pinned my way across the bottom of the curtains, marking about every six inches. Then I pressed the hem using the pins as a guide. It wasn’t scientific, but it resulted in curtains that just brushed the floor.

8. You can totally do this too. Dropcloth curtains are pretty easy to make. Honestly, I found them a bit tedious. The only sewing is in straight lines. Loooooong straight lines. However, boring they may be, sewing straight lines is not difficult.

Dropcloth curtains in a navy master bedroom

Let me know if you try them yourself.

Have you ever made your own curtains? Any tips to share from your experience?

Linking up with: Happy Housie DIY Challenge Party

How to build your own shaker cabinets

It’s time for the first progress report in my One Room Challenge laundry room makeover.

One Room Challenge

Today’s update focuses on the most striking transformation in the laundry room: the cabinets.

You saw in the first post that the laundry room cabinets are basic flat doors. You also saw that my inspiration was a shaker style.

Laundry room before and inspiration

Fortunately, transforming flat doors into shaker doors is a pretty easy process. However, there was one door and one drawer that weren’t basic flat panels. I don’t know what this style is called officially, but I believe it was popular in the nineties. The distinctive feature of these cabinets was a built in wood stained “handle” along the edge of the white melamine flat door or drawer. Look familiar?

90s style cabinet

Before I could shaker-fy these cabinets, I needed to get rid of the ridge part of the handle. I enlisted my new-to-me, but extremely old table saw. I set the fence and the blade at the precise width and height I needed to slice off the handle, and then I very carefully ran the door and the drawer through the saw.

Trimming the edge off a cabinet door

Once the handle was removed, I could work with these cabinets exactly like the rest of the ones in the laundry room.

Using my table saw again, my Dad and I cut 2 inch wide strips out of a sheet of hardboard that I had left over from my bookshelf project. I then affixed the strips to the cabinets to make the raised shaker detail.

Easy peasy.

Adding shaker trim to cabinet doors

I used a smear of carpenters glue on the back of the strips and then I tacked them in place with my Dad’s nail gun. A bit of wood filler evened out the joints and an all over sanding smoothed everything out. I chose to have the vertical pieces run edge to edge on the drawers and doors, and then the horizontals ran between the two vertical strips.

For the drawer and the door that I’d trimmed earlier, the shaker strips covered most of the original handle. At the edges a good daub of wood filler took care of the hole. Here’s a sneak peek of how they look after painting. Not perfect, but good enough for me.

Adding shake style trim to cabinets

Anyways, before I get too far ahead of myself, how about a few more details on the painting? After I painted the kitchen cabinets at our first house, I swore I’d never do it again. Maybe my tolerance for DIY has improved because painting these cabinets was much less torturous.

A few things were different this time around.

  1. After priming I used the Advance paint formula from Benjamin Moore as opposed to a stinky heavy duty oil paint. I’ve been super impressed by the finish I get from Advance, and clean up is a breeze.
  2. I painted just the fronts of the doors. Sure it’s a shortcut, but I didn’t feel the need to flip them over and paint the insides too.
  3. I split the painting into two stages because I chose two different colours. The uppers and two blocks of lower cabinets are all BM Cloud White (the same colour as we’ve used on the trim elsewhere in the house). The lowers on the sink section are BM Wrought Iron (the same colour as Matt’s bathroom). One coat of one colour took just 30-45 minutes–much better than the week of 16 hour days I spent in our last kitchen.

As soon as the drawers and doors were dry, I put them all back in place.

Laundry room cabinet makeover

The room may still need to be painted, cleaned and decorated, but it’s already looking 100 times better. Since installing the doors and drawers, I’ve found myself making special trips downstairs to the laundry room just to admire the cabinets.

That’s not weird, is it?

This is a super cheap, easy way to makeover basic cabinets. I highly recommend it.

And because this is a progress report, here’s where the rest of the makeover stands:

  1. Add shaker style trim to the cabinets
  2. Paint the cabinets
  3. Install doors and drawers
  4. Remove ceiling rack – By Oct. 3
  5. Patch ceiling and walls – By Oct. 3
  6. Prime walls and paint ceiling – By Oct. 10
  7. Paint and install baseboard and paint window trim – By Oct. 10
  8. Deep clean (sink, counter, floor, machines) – Oct. 13 (Happy Thanksgiving Monday!)
  9. Paint walls – By Oct. 17
  10. Level washing machine – By Oct. 19
  11. Build and install ceiling rack – By Oct. 24
  12. Build and install towel bar – By Oct. 24
  13. Install cabinet hardware – By Oct. 24
  14. Build and install light fixture – By Oct. 26
  15. Decorate – By Oct. 31

I knocked off steps 4 and 5 in the past week, but added one new step (#10). I don’t know how I forgot that the washing machine shakes like it’s going to take flight every time it goes into the spin cycle. We have to fix that.

So week one of the One Room Challenge is over. Five (or hopefully less) to go. If you haven’t had a chance, I highly recommend checking out the link-ups on Calling it Home. The 20 participating bloggers post on Wednesday and then the linking participants (like me) share our progress on Thursday. There’s an impressive range of projects and lots of inspiration. Exactly what this challenge is all about.

Have you ever made over cabinets with trim or another add-on? How about painting cabinets? Have you ever taken on that fun task? What’s your favourite cabinet style? Anyone know what that nineties built-in handle style is called?

How to make a fabric-covered bulletin board

While the dresser may be the workhorse of my new office nook, the beauty queen is definitely the fabric-covered bulletin board that hangs above it.

Pretty home command centre

Since I was working with such specific measurements in this tiny space, I decided that my best option was to make my own bulletin board.

Home Depot sells prefab cork panels that are 48 inches by 24 inches, very close to the dimensions I needed, so I started with that. Then I found a piece of decorative molding to build my frame. I considered some of the very fancy crown moldings, but a lot of those are very wide. Given that I only had about 20 inches total to work with, I didn’t want to take up too much space just with the frame. I wanted as much pin-up space as possible.

For the back of the frame, I bought some 5/8 inch by 2 inch strips. After ripping them in half, they were about half an inch narrower than my molding. By attaching them to the back of the molding with some glue and little nails, I was able to make a recessed area for the cork to sit.

How to make a bulletin board

I used my mitre saw to cut each side of the frame to the right length at a perfect forty-five degree angle. Tip: When you’re cutting pieces on an angle, mark your desired length as you usually would at 90 degrees. Add a tick mark to the left or right to remind yourself which way you’ll need to angle your cut your.

Cutting decorative molding on an angle

Each corner got a few dabs of glue, and then I nailed them together with my Dad’s nail gun. Tip: To check that your frame is square, measure diagonally from corner to corner. The dimensions should be the same between each diagonal pair. Twist your frame a bit to the left or right until your measurements match exactly.

Checking for square

Once my frame was perfectly square, I caulked all of the nail holes and corner joints. Tip: Keep a damp sponge on hand as you’re caulking. Wetting your finger before smoothing out the caulk gives a nice even finish. Plus the sponge gives you a spot to wipe any excess caulk off your hands before you get it all over yourself. Not that I’m speaking from past experience, or anything. Oh, and make sure you choose paintable caulk.

Wet your finger before smoothing out caulking

I let everything dry and then it was time for paint. I knew I wanted a bit of glitz, so I decided to go with gold. A few light coats of spray paint did the job.

With the frame done, I moved on to the cork. The prefab piece was close, but just a bit too wide. It cut easily with a knife, and then a quick rub with fine sandpaper smoothed any ragged edges. Tip: Cut the the cork about 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch smaller than the frame. A little bit too loose is better than too tight. Plus any gap will be hidden by the recessed channel behind the frame.

Cutting cork with a knife

Covering the cork in fabric was no more complicated than wrapping a present. I cut the fabric about 6 to 7 inches bigger than the cork panel, so that I had plenty to wrap around the back. I pulled it taunt and stapled it in place. The corners got a bit of extra pleating and a few extra staples.

Staple the corners on the backside of the cork

I slipped the cork into the frame. To hold it in place, I tacked staples part way into the frame at four different points around the back side of the frame. I can easily pull these out if I ever want to change the fabric.

Use staples to hold the bulletin board in the frame

I flipped it over and was dazzled. Pretty! Pink! Flowers! Colour! Gold!

Fabric covered bulletin board

I was so dazzled that I didn’t spend too much time coming up with a technical solution to hang it on the wall. I just wanted it up. My solution was two finishing nails hammered into the drywall on the same level. Their small heads fit easily between the edge of the frame and the cork, and the board is light enough that that’s all the support it needs.

Anchoring securely might be more important if you have small children or other things you don’t want bulletin boards falling on, although we’ve had no issue with the board shifting or falling since I installed it.

Fabric covered bulletin boards are a pretty easy and popular DIY. Have you ever made one? How do you bring beauty to functional pieces like bulletin boards? Are you a floral sparkle fan?

How to make a tall narrow dresser

When I reorganized the tiny nook in my office, I knew that I had to add some kind of storage. A dresser was the ideal solution. Drawers would allow me to tuck things away, and the surface would give me a spot to write notes and set my purse and keys.

So I had some pretty specific requirements: drawers, about counter top height, oh, and it had to fit in the nook, which was 16 inches deep by 24 inches wide. Of course, it also had to be cheap.

Well, I had no luck finding a piece of furniture that met those standards. However, I soon realized that nightstands often have drawers and are usually small enough to fit this little space. While nightstands are much shorter than countertop height, they usually come in pairs. Couldn’t I just stack them one on top of another?

It turns out, yep, I can.

Here’s what I started with. Two little nightstands I found at the Salvation Army thrift store for $12 each.

Two vintage night stands

First step of any furniture makeover: remove the drawers and the hardware. It turned out that one of the drawers contained a plastic hardhat, so I got distracted by that for a little while. Consider this your PSA to always wear safety equipment (hardhat, safety glasses and ear protection) while DIYing.

Geeky safety equipment

Anyways, back to work. I started taking apart the dressers. I popped the backs off of each of them. Then I took the top off one and the bottom off another. The nightstands came apart really easily. The backs were just stapled in place. The top was attached to corner blocks that were screwed in place. The decorative trim at the bottom was tacked with some little nails. I needed a few different tools, and I was thankful for my stubby screwdrivers that fit in some of the tighter nooks and crannies, but dismantling these pieces of furniture was not a taxing task.

Dismantled night stands

Once they were apart, it was time for something that was a little more taxing: cutting. The nightstand that was going on the bottom had to be trimmed along the top, and the one that was becoming the top half had to be cut down along the bottom. Clear? I measured the spacing between the drawers to figure out exactly where to make my cut and marked the line with painters tape.

Marking a cut line with painters tape

Four quick slices with my circular saw, and the dressers were the right height. I set them on top of each other and was super excited. It was looking like I envisioned.

Making a dresser out of two night stands

Now I just had to figure out how to actually attach the two halves. When I’d taken apart the dressers, I’d removed some side braces. I was able to reuse those pieces on the inside of the dresser. I ran them half on the bottom and half on the top and screwed right through the side into the brace. My dresser was now all one piece and it was solid, but it was ugly. No amount of wood filler was going to fix that joint.

Attaching two night stands to make a dresser

The solution was overlaying a very thin panel along the whole side. I had 1/8 inch MDF, which I cut down to the exact dimensions of the side of the dresser. I tacked it in place with small finishing nails, and it covered up the gap completely.

Tacking a board in place with small brass finishing nail

A bit of wood filler camouflaged the joint on the front of the dresser. While I had the wood filler out, I filled the holes on the drawers where the original pulls had been and a few other spots on the dresser where the veneer was chipped.

Filling holes with wood filler

After a light sanding all over, I primed the dresser and drawers, and then they all got a coat of creamy white paint–Cloud White in Benjamin Moore’s Advance formula. This was my first time using Advance, and I really like it. The finish is nice and smooth (I used a foam roller), it has none of the stickiness that you sometimes get with latex after it dries, and it has been very durable. In the past, I’ve used heavy duty oil paints on furniture or cabinets. The clean up is a pain and the stench is noxious. None of that is an issue with Advance, and in my opinion it’s held up just as well as an oil finish.

Painting a dresser with a foam roller

The finishing touch for the dresser was new crystal (plastic) nobs. This is one area where I got a bit neurotic. The nobs that I chose had a metal post that went through the middle. The posts were brushed nickel. I’m not a fan. Plus, I already had oil-rubbed bronze and gold/brass elsewhere in the office. I’m not good with mixing metals, so I spray painted all of the metal pins with oil-rubbed bronze spray paint. It was easy, but probably not entirely necessary.

Crystal drawer nobs

As you saw last week, the dresser fits perfectly in the nook. It ended up being the exact right height, and I’m loving having all of the drawers to keep me organized.

Tall and narrow DIY dresser

What second hand furniture have you made over? Have you ever made two pieces into one? How do you handle hard-to-furnish spots with specific dimensions?

Six tips on how to stay organized when buying a house

When I was organizing my office the other week, I came across the binder I made when we bought the farm. This thing was my bible. I thought it might be helpful to share how I stayed organized during our relatively complicated house closing.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

1. Come up with a system capture the paper work and information that comes with selling and buying a house.

You want to have all of your information in one place that’s easily accessible. For me, this system was a binder that I carried everywhere for about three months. For you a file folder might work. You might even be able to set up an electronic file on your computer, tablet or phone. In my experience, buying a house comes with a lot of paperwork, so having a paper-based system worked for me.

2. Once you capture all of the information, keep it organized.

I used dividers to categorize information in my binder.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

You’ll have your own categories that work for you, but the ones that I used were mortgage broker, mortgage provider, mortgage quote, life insurance, house insurance, lawyer, storage, eco-energy audit, geothermal, insulation, water, internet, home inspection, property taxes, finances, offer, move-in and “fun & plans” (more on this one later). Sections were a mix of information we needed to complete the purchase of the farm and the sale of our first house, along with the fixes we planned to tackle first.

3. Keep track of everything

Make note of every conversation, every contact, every transaction, every flyer. You never know what you’ll need some day. I found it was particularly important to have a photocopy of our official offer and all of our financial information that I could quickly refer to.

Here’s the first page in my “lawyer” section. I have everything from appointment times, notes on title insurance and land transfer tax, even the scrap of paper where my dad first wrote down the lawyer’s contact information (which I’ve blurred out) stapled onto the page.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

Other sections have written quotes from insulation contractors, flyers for rural internet providers and business cards from other contacts. Our water section had the reports from all of our initial well inspections, but then it grew to include research that I gathered on different water treatment and pumping systems, estimates from contractors and other notes as we went through the process of installing our new system.

4. Keep a calendar

There are lots of things to remember when buying and selling a house. A calendar or schedule is essential to keep things on track. I made a customized calendar that showed the two months from when we purchased the farm to after we moved in all on one page. The front cover of my binder had a plastic sleeve, so I slipped the calendar in there, where I could always see it at a glance.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

5. Make sure your system is flexible.

In order to work throughout your whole house purchase, your system will have to grow and adapt and travel with you. Part way through the closing, I bought a second package of dividers and doubled the sections in the binder. As new information came in, I could write it down or print it out, punch holes in it and slot it into the appropriate section. Wherever I was, I could whip out the binder to access information or jot down a note.

6. Make room for some fun.

Buying a house can be stressful. Often, it can seem that you’re spending all of your time with depressing inspection reports that show everything that’s wrong with your house, exorbitant contractor quotes that show you’re never going to be able to fix your house, or complicated legal and financial forms that make you question if you’re ever going to be able to actually buy your house. Occasionally, you’re going to need some help to look on the bright side.

The final section of my binder was called fun & plans.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

This wasn’t a huge section, and I confess it didn’t get a ton of attention, but it was a spot where I could do things like this.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

Or this (pre-Pinterest).

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

Our two-month closing process was a little complicated because we were dealing with a country property and a fixer-upper, but I think a binder like this would be helpful no matter what kind of house you’re buying. It can be scaled and customized for whatever you need. And its usefulness continues after the sale closes. It’s been two years since we moved to the farm, and I still pull out this binder occasionally to find a contact or double check some information.

Now it’s your turn. Anyone have any tips on how to stay organized when buying a house? Are you a paper or computer person?

How to refurbish a ping pong table

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so today’s post is all about something green. Our new(ish) ping pong table.

Refurbished pingpong table

This ping pong table was a bit of an experiment. We found the top (in two pieces) in the barn when we first moved in. It was pretty dirty and had even been pooped on by the swallows that live in the barn.

I am always optimistic, so one day last summer, I dragged the two halves outside. I have no idea how I managed to move them by myself because each piece is extremely heavy. I haven’t been able to carry them on my own since. I scrubbed with a brush and sprayed with the hose until all of the poop and dirt (and a fair portion of the original green paint) washed away.

Damaged pingpong tabletop

Matt did not share my optimism that the table could be rehabilitated. That night he tucked the pieces deep into a corner of the driveshed. I have no idea how, though, because the tabletop is heavy even for him to move on his own.

Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the project, Matt did help me carry the top into the house. Then, one weekend while he was out of town, I went to work.

This project was a total experiment, and I’m sure ping pong purists out there will be horrified. But (spoiler alert) everything worked out, so I’m sharing my technique with you.

There were two big issues with the table: 1) We had no legs to go with the top. 2) The top itself was not in great shape.

The leg issue was easy to solve with six trestle style legs from Ikea (Lerberg).

Ikea Lerberg legs for a pingpong table

The top took a little more effort.

I started with a coat of fresh white paint over the lines. After sleeping on it for the night, I realized I really should have sanded the top first, so the next morning I basically started all over again. I sanded down the top, which was not an indoor task. Sanding resulted in a fine green powder over the whole room–not the best scenario with our nice light carpet. There was a defined line between where the drop cloth had protected the carpet and where the green dust had floated beyond the drop cloth’s reach. I was very glad Matt was not home to see the mess I had made.

Refurbishing an old pingpong table

The Shop Vac erased the green mist, and I was able to get back to the painting.

White paint went on again, and, then once it was dry, I taped off the lines. Since painter’s tape doesn’t come in ping pong line widths, I had to very carefully trim it.

Cutting painters tape to narrower width

Then the tape got a quick coat of white paint to seal it, and after some drying time I moved onto the green. Since I wasn’t sure if this was actually going to work, I used some regular latex paint that we had left over from Matt’s office. It’s Manor Green from Benjamin Moore in case anyone’s interested.

Refurbishing an old pingpong table

The green took about three coats, I think. On the final coat, I carefully peeled off the tape to reveal the white lines. Some of the white flaked off (I think giving the white more time to dry, or even doing two coats would have been helpful).

Refurbishing an old pingpong table

Chips aside, the finish was a massive improvement over the table’s previous state. In fact, Matt was so impressed when he arrived home that he started to think that maybe I wasn’t entirely crazy in wanting to save the table.

So now I had a tabletop and I had table legs. How to put them together?

Refurbishing an old pingpong table

It turned out that the Lerberg legs are a bit shorter than regulation ping pong height of 30 inches–hey, I have some standards. Using a few 2x3s and my Kreg Jig I built a frame to attach to the underside of the tabletop.

Using a Kreg Jig to screw 2x3s together

I screwed the frame to the tabletop… or at least to one half. The top ended up being too unwieldy and heavy as one big piece, so I didn’t screw everything together. We set the top on the frame and the frame on the legs, and we think each piece is heavy enough to stay in place on its own.

Frame for the underside of a pingpong table

The six Lerberg trestles mean the table is very leggy. However, we really needed the support in the middle of the table as well as at each end.

We got a very simple cheap net at Walmart. It’s called an “everywhere table tennis” from EastPoint, and we just clipped it onto the table. Again, I wasn’t sure that this refurbishment was actually going to work, so I didn’t feel the need to invest in a professional net.

Anywhere table tennis net by East Point

With the table set up, Matt broke out the paddles, tapped one of the balls across the net, and it bounced. It worked! We had a functional ping pong table.

I had no ping pong skills, but after a week of daily practice, I’ve improved a lot. I finally won a game against Matt yesterday (he also may have let me win one). My ping pong prowess aside, refurbishing the table was a definite win.

Have you ever rehabbed a piece of furniture that seemed beyond hope? Anyone have any ping pong pointers? How are you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?