Friday, November 28, 2014

(No) Tile Style

I'm excited to say that we're finally starting to tile the kitchen backsplash. I can't wait for the kitchen to feel all shiny and polished and, most importantly, done. We've had the tile for ages. It's simple white subway tile, with just a bit of a twist because each tile is a full foot long. Brett found it at some fancy-shmancy to-the-trades tile seller ... and then we found it at Lowe's for half the price. Huzzah!


So of course, it's been sitting in boxes on our stairs for the last three months.

Brett's done a lot of tiling, so I was feeling confident that this project would go pretty quickly and smoothly. We spent the weekend on it and ... did not install a single tile.

Everything's actually going very well; there are just several important steps I didn't know about.

First, since our tile is going to end in the middle of a wall, we needed a nice edging for it. There's a metal piece designed exactly for this called a  Schluter strip. Try saying that three times fast. Or better yet, try asking the guy at Home Depot how to find it without feeling just a little dirty.

Hey baby, wanna see my Schluter strip? 

Cutting this and screwing it on to the wall just takes a minute.


However, we can't just start sticking tile to the wall. We needed to install a rough backer of cement board for the mortar to grip. The process is similar to installing drywall. You know: slow, awkward, and ridiculously dusty.

First pop off the outlet covers.

Measure 3,00 times, cut once.

This was the moment we realized that there's a tiny piece of trim glued into one of the corners. That needed to be pried, chipped, and cajoled out before we could install the cement board. I thank the heavens daily for our chisel - it's like the DIYer's hammer of Thor. 

Because it wouldn't be any fun if things were easy.

The cement board gets cut to size and screwed to the wall. Then you tape over the seams, and cover the tape with mortar.


Mix (and mix, and mix, then wait and mix some more)


This was the first time I'd mixed mortar, and I have to say, it's fun to work with. The texture is just really satisfying. Brett said that it should be about the consistency of cookie dough, and while that's a useful description, it did seem a little odd to apply to a substance that smells like dissected frog.

This is my sad face, because Mom won't let me eat the mortar.
So here we are, all covered with backer board and mortar! Hopefully I'll be posting about our finished project after next weekend.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Accidental Coffee Table

When we moved into this house, we found all kinds of interesting things laying around in odd places: old doors, spare bits and bobs, a few tools, a few surprises. One of our favorite finds was an old trunk in the crawl space. It's just too perfect - exactly the right amount of roughed-up to look well traveled but not thrashed.

A previous owner of the home worked on sets for TV and movies (and a lot of his interior remodels were done with leftover set pieces), so I'm imagining some kind of interesting cinematic back story here.

I knew right away that it would be the perfect coffee table. All it needed was a good clean and some legs. And by "a good clean," I mostly mean "to be left out in the sunlight until I was sure all the spiders had moved out."

Useful, lovely, and spider-free!

We picked up a few unfinished wood legs for just a couple dollars a piece, and then I stained them black.

This kind of leg comes with a screw attached, so Brett drilled a hole in each corner of the trunk, and we just secured each leg in place with a bolt. Done!

Bonus: Hermione thinks the new table is delicious.

Now I just need to re-cover the inside with fresh contact paper or fabric so we can really use it for that holy grail of small home ownership - extra storage! Cue the angels singing.

This is what an angel looks like, right?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Happy Howl-o-ween with an Easy DIY Pet Costume

In my previous post, you may have noticed an evilly adorable monster-puppy running around with bat wings.

Surprise - that little creature of darkness is Hermione in costume! (Bet you never would have guessed.)

I made her bat wings to fit over her regular harness. I used only common craft supplies I already owned, and the whole thing took less than half an hour. Want to know how to make your own pair?

  • 3 sheets of felt, wool is best but the craft-store junk is fine
  • Sewing machine OR needle and thread OR craft glue
  • Your dog's harness
  • Martha Stewart bat-wing template (free)


  • First, print out the bat wing template.
I used this only as a general guideline in order to make a similar shape in a different size. As sized, her wings would have been huge on my teeny pup. And while it would have been adorable for her to have huge wings to match her huge ears, I was running low on felt. 

  • Trace the template on to your craft felt and cut out. You need three identical layers. 
I tried to cut each layer separately, which turned out to be a mistake - I spent the bulk of my time on this project trimming and re-trimming felt until they lined up right.

The point of using three layers is to make the wings stiff enough not to flop around. I considered trying stiffened felt instead, but 1) I would have to leave the house to go get it, and 2) the plushy look of the thicker layers is cute.

Also, I didn't have enough black (see "low on felt," above), so I used 1 piece of black and 2 pieces of orange. I actually really like the effect!

  • Line the three layers up, pin together, and sew around the edges.
You could probably also use craft glue. I'm a seriously novice sewer - it's a major accomplishment if I don't sew my fingers to my project - and even I thought this was pretty easy. Craft glue doesn't always look nice when it's dry, and it takes forever to set. Since I have no patience, sewing won out.

  • Add decorative stitching.
By which I mean, that one line of stitching I put through the center of each wing. You could go really crazy and do two or three.

  • On to attaching the wings! Cut a small strip of felt (I used scrap from cutting the wings) which will wrap around your dog's harness.
  • Glue or sew ONE end in place.

    • Fold the other side of the strap around the harness and pin into place. 

    • Fly away!