Archive for the ‘DIY Projects’ Category


DIY Tilt-out Trash Can

Awhile back, I posted about the stool I built that doubled as a water dispenser stand in my kitchen.  It seemed like a waste of space, and since I was also in need of a way to hide my garbage can, I decided to build something that would hide the garbage can and hold the water dispenser.  This is another creation from Ana White’s website; you can check out the free plans HERE.  I altered the height and width to match the space I had available.  One suggestion – make sure you have a garbage can that will fit inside, before you build.  You’d be surprised how difficult it is to find one that works when you alter the width!

I built my tilt-out cabinet more than a year ago using scrap lumber and leftover beadboard, and didn’t post about it until now because I’ve had good intentions of removing the center beadboard and replacing it with a piece of union jack patterned sheet metal. Other household chores keep getting in the way (old homes = work work work) so I’m not sure if or when I’ll get around to it.

If you’ve never built anything, Ana White’s website is a fantastic place to get acquainted.  Many of her plans utilize a Kreg Jig (a neat and simple tool that allows you to drill pocket holes – sold at most home improvement stores) and lots of photos to guide you.  This cabinet can be customized in so many ways and was a fairly simple build – give it a try!  Happy Friday!













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Before I dive into the wreath project, I wanted to mention that postings on this blog will continue to be sparse.  I’ve spent the past six plus months unemployed and immersed in caring for my ailing pup and made the hard decision to let my best friend rest in peace earlier this month.  It hardly seems fair that such an intelligent, loving and beautiful being is allowed such a short time on earth.  He has been with me nearly all of my adult years, and now, almost 15 years after falling in love with the most adorable puppy I’ve ever seen (photos at bottom of post), I’m trying to figure out where this new chapter in life will take me.  While you may see a few random do-it-yourself projects or artwork/photography posts pop-up every once in awhile, I’m feeling a desire to detach a bit more from the online world after this long hard winter.  I hope everyone is enjoying spring – finally a bit of green popping up around here (and by green, I mean weeds – ha)!

My front door was looking rather naked after I took down my wooden snowflake a few weeks ago, so I decided to try making a wreath that could work for either spring or summer.  While this isn’t much of a tutorial, I will tell you where I bought my supplies and how to I got everything to stay put.

DIY Door Wreath for Spring or Summer



  • grapevine wreath (mine is fairly small, at 12″, purchased at Joann Fabrics*)
  • your choice of artificial plants and flowers (all from this wreath were purchased at Michael’s*)
  • wire cutting device (or scissors as a last resort)
  • glue of some sort (a hot glue gun is the easiest method)

*don’t forget to go to the Michael’s or Joann’s websites and print out their weekly coupons!


  • Before you begin, think about your wreath hanger.  Because artificial plants/flowers can be delicate, I decided to leave a gap where the hanger would be placed.
  • It’s helpful to set your plants/flowers around the wreath before securing so that you have a better feel for the finished design.
  • Most of the artificial plants/flowers you chose are likely to have long wire stems – you’ll need to trim them so that only a few inches remain.  The best way to decide how much to leave behind is to take a look at the depth of your wreath – if the stems aren’t too thick and have flexible wire, you can leave them a little longer so they can be shoved directly through gaps in the grapevines and then wrapped or woven around on the backside (no need for the back to be pretty!).  Wrapping/weaving wires through to the backside, combined with some glue, will leave you with the most secure finished product.
  • After all flowers/plants are placed as you desire and wrapped/woven through to the other side in some fashion, place a hidden dab of glue on any pieces that seem as though they have the potential to come loose – a hot glue gun will quickly do the trick.


Make your own wreath for summer or spring!

I’d love to see your wreaths – feel free to place a link to a photo of yours in the comments section!


…And before I sign-off, a few pictures of Orpheus.

Learning how to bring (er, play with) the newspaper at 6 weeks old!


Favorite toy – once when camping, he very quietly and methodically took each and every stick from the fire kindling pile and carried them over to his spot. :)


taking a break during a ski outing (5 yrs old)

taking a break during a ski outing (5 yrs old)


monkey time

He was a hugger – if I asked for a hug he would come over and rest his head on my shoulder.

This was a typical photo of the two of us - he still in mid-stride, me having given up on a normal photo (mom is about to face plant in 3…2…1).

This was a typical photo of the two of us – he still in mid-stride, me having given up on a normal photo, ha (mom is about to face plant in 3..2…1).





leaves 2

October 2013


Squeezed in a few nice sunshine and fresh air naps in his last few days… still beautiful.

Squeezed in a few nice sunshine and fresh air naps in his last few days… still beautiful.





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If you’ve read one of my previous  DIY blog entries, you may remember how much I love the woodworking plans on Ana White’s website.  During the last year, I’ve built several of Ana’s plans… this ‘barn-beam’ being one of them.  Since I live in a tiny house and am always in need of more storage space, I modified the plan slightly to include interior storage.  I typically finish my projects with a low or zero VOC stain or paint, but wanted a weathered wood finish and winter isn’t the best time to have special stain shipped.  So, I ignored my better judgement and opted for a locally available yet non-eco friendly finish which included pre-conditioner, and stacking two separate Minwax stain colors.  I love how it turned out, but the process left me with a headache and frustration over using something so toxic.  I later found how to achieve a nearly identical finish with a homemade non-toxic stain made of vinegar and steel wool – keep reading to find out how to make your own!

stain comparison

First, here is the link to the shelf plan: Barn Beam Ledges

It’s about as simple as they come – if you don’t have many tools, this is one you can make using only a hand saw, hammer, and nails.  If you choose to use my storage modification, you’ll need a screwdriver as well.

shelf storage

Next, my storage modification:  Rather than attach the front board with nails, attach a hinge near each end so that the front board acts as a drop-down panel.  Finally, attach a small screw-in eye and hook in the top center of your shelf to hold the front panel shut.  After seeing the photos (click to enlarge) it should make sense, but feel free to comment below if you have questions!

shelf hinge

shelf hook

Now, my favorite – THE STAIN!

This stain relies on oxidation and despite my biology background, chemistry was not my strong suit, so you won’t find me explaining how this all works.  I can tell you though, it works, and it works beautifully.  However, it’s also one of those things that relies on a number of factors, so you may get a slightly varied finish depending on how heavy you coat your wood, type of wood, age of your stain, etc.  Consider saving a piece of scrap wood from your project to test on that day that you will be staining.  Note that your stain will need to age for a few days prior to usage.

You will need: 

  • Green or black tea bags (depending on your wood, see notes below)
  • Very fine steel wool (I bought mine at Lowe’s and used #0000 grade)
  • White vinegar
  • An airtight glass jar
  • Brush
  • Cheescloth (optional)


Fill an airtight jar with white vinegar (other vinegars should work, but I haven’t tried them).  Take one piece of your steel wool (it needs to be of a very fine grade so that it will break apart/dissolve properly) and stretch it out and pull it apart a bit.  Submerge this in your vinegar.  Seal your jar and leave it to sit.  You can gently shake it once a day to encourage it to break apart, though this is not necessary.  It should be ready to use in several days, but I left mine sit for about two weeks.  The photo below shows what it looks like at the beginning and at the two week mark, after shaking (prior to shaking you will have clear-ish liquid with a lot of steel wool sediment on the bottom).

vinegar stain before after

Depending on the type of wood you’re using – the day you will be staining, prepare your tea.  The tea will be brushed onto your bare wood prior to staining in order to impart tannins onto the surface, thus allowing the stain to react, and creating your simulated weathered finish.  If you are using standard lumber or pine, you will likely need to apply tea first.  Softwoods are typically low in tannins, whereas hardwoods are higher.  If your wood is naturally darker in color (more brown or red-toned like cedar), it probably won’t need tea first.  If in doubt, test an inconspicuous spot on your piece, or a scrap piece from  your build and use only the vinegar/steel wool stain on it.  Wait several minutes, and if the wood color does not change you will know you need to pre-brush with tea.

For the tea:  how much you need will depend on the size of your piece to be stained.  Mine was small, so I boiled one cup of water and let 3 green tea bags steep in it for about thirty minutes.  Then I brushed all surfaces of the wood with it, and let it soak in.  I sped up my dry-time by using a hair dryer on low for a short time.  Make sure everything was coated – anything that was left uncoated will not change color.

Staining:  I was a little worried about the smell of the stain, but it just smelled like potent vinegar.  In general, it’s not a bad idea to do things like this outdoors, but if you are staining something small and/or it’s winter, a big plus of this stain is its lack of chemicals; so, it’s not a big deal to work indoors with an open window.  You may wish to wear gloves, as it can stain your fingers a little.  Once your wood is dry (if you brushed with tea), slowly open your stain – there will be pressure that’s built-up (hydrogen gas?).  If you’re working on a project that you want to last a very long time, you might consider straining your stain into another jar by using cheesecloth.  I stumbled upon a comment by one person that said any little pieces of steel wool that unknowingly make it onto your wood may cause small dark spots to appear years later.  Whether or not this is true, I have no idea.  Evenly brush stain onto your wood (following the direction of the wood grain, as always).  It’s best to do only a single coat unless you want an almost black finish (which is what will happen if you double-coat).  I could see a change in color almost immediately and it continued to slightly darken over the next few minutes.  Keep in mind that the ends may be more porous and will turn darker.  You can sand any darker areas after your wood is dry.  You should now have a beautifully weathered-looking finish!  Stain can be kept for quite a long time from what I’ve read, but when it comes time to dispose – please do so responsibly (use it up by coating scrap wood perhaps?) since steel wool bits probably shouldn’t be going down your drain!

I skimmed several websites when learning about how to make this stain, but by far the most useful was the Friendly Home blog  If you want more detail than what I’ve offered (and sealer suggestions), her blog entry and many of the associated comments are really helpful!

Happy staining, and an early…

Happy Heart Day

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Block print queen anne's lace

Last year, I signed up for a printmaking course at the local community college.  It was cancelled due to low enrollment and I vowed to explore the topic on my own (pokey) time.  Fast forward to a year later… I gradually began buying supplies when I found them on sale and then my sister gave me a book and a few more tools for Christmas.  So, today I whipped out my trusty Sharpie marker and started sketching all sorts of summery/floral designs.  I transferred my drawing and cut my first design.  The photos above are what resulted — not the clearest prints (also not the greatest inks), but not bad for a first try.


Should you feel inspired to try block printing, YouTube is a great resource!  These are the items you would need to get started:

  • brayer (small roller)
  • baren (or something else to apply pressure with, even a spoon or mug could potentially work)
  • ink (block printing ink – I used Dick Blick inks but there are many other brands, for those on a budget perhaps even liquid acrylics or a stamp pad)
  • thick paper (cardstock or a brown grocery bag)
  • carving surface (I used Speedball Speedy-Carve, but there are other options)
  • lino cutter (this multi-tip tool is handy, also by Speedball)
  • smooth surface to roll your ink (a piece of plexiglass, a plastic tray, etc.)

First, you’ll need to freehand or transfer your design/artwork onto your carving surface.  A hint for transferring: flip your drawing/artwork over (you should be able to see your design through the paper), scribble over the back of the design using a pencil.  Flip your paper back over (design/artwork side up), and set it over your carving surface.  Now, trace your work with a stylus or draw on top of it with a pencil, and as you press down, the pencil scribblings from the back side will allow the image to transfer onto the carving surface.

I won’t go into the details of carving and printing, as it is much easier to do an internet search and watch a video of this (this one is fairly helpful:  http://youtu.be/WNsTQpVlmw4

One last little fun tip:  in addition to carving artwork, you can also make prints from natural items (nature printing) such as leaves and feathers.  A little tricky when starting, but fun once you get the hang of it!

I’m looking for ideas for my next print – any suggestions?

Hope your week is off to a happy start!

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How is everybody?  Summer is flying by!  My apologies for the lack of posting lately… life has been busy busy busy!  I took today off from work and should have been installing flooring in my back room this afternoon, but decided to procrastinate with a fun and easy DIY project.  My back patio has a section of mismatched siding that was begging for a decorative distraction.  I had been eyeing a trellis that cost $60, but there way no way I was going to spend that much.  So, this is my inexpensive creation!


You will need a few basic tools/supplies for this project:

  • Staple/brad nail gun (I used 9/16″ brad nails) or a if you don’t have one, a hammer and some small nails
  • Drill and drill bit (about the same diameter as the stake portion of the border fence panel you’ll also need)
  • A saw of some sort (for cutting your 1×2’s and lath.
  • A bundle of wood lath
  • Two 1×2 6-ft. furring strips
  • Metal decorative border fence panel
  • Stain or paint (optional)

trellis suppliesIf you’re not familiar with furring strips, they are typically used as support in construction.  They’re a bit more unfinished than a standard piece of lumber… not always perfectly straight, a bit more rounded on the edges, and a bit rough in some spots.  However, they are very inexpensive, and are perfect for this project.

When choosing a fence border panel, make sure to choose one that has two ‘legs’ on the bottom sides (they would normally be stuck into the ground – we will stick them into our furring strips).

You won’t need the entire bundle of lath; 15 pieces that 4ft. long should suffice, though you may wish to grab a few extra since it can split on occasion.

The How-to:

(Sorry for the lack of photos!  Feel free to ask questions if this gets confusing!)

  • Take your drill bit (make sure it about the same size as the legs/stakes on your border fence panel), and drill a hole centered in the top of each of your 1×2’s.  I ended up drilling about 3-4 inches down, which was far enough to stabilize the panel once the legs are inserted.

trellis step one

  • Insert legs into the holes you’ve drilled into your 1×2’s.  The legs should fit snugly, and you may even have to twist a bit to get them in far enough.  If they don’t fit snugly, you may want to use a bit of wood glue to help hold them in place.
  • Measure the width between your two 1×2’s, now that they are attached to the border fence panel (mine measured 19″).
  • Cut 28 pieces of lath, according to your measurement.
  • Starting from the top (just below your border fence panel), begin attaching lath to your 1×2’s (horizontally and evenly spaced) using brad nails or other small nails – 9/16″ worked fine, though you could go slightly longer.  Stop after attaching 9 pieces.
  • You will now attach 8 more pieces of lath, vertically – but first, attach one more piece of lath (horizontally) down about 19″ from the last one you placed.  The vertical pieces will attach to the 9th horizontal piece of lath you placed, and the lower lath piece you are now placing.  Before securing this lower piece, you can double-check that the distance is correct by resting one of your cut pieces of lath on top, vertically.
  • Because the vertical lath pieces are attached to lath rather than 1×2’s, your nails will likely poke through on the back side.  To remedy this, you will flip your trellis over and attach a second piece of lath on top of both pieces where nails poke through.  The nails poking through are on the back side, and because they sit between the 1×2’s, they’ll need to be cut just a couple inches shorter so they can sit directly on top of the piece of lath with nails poking through.  Cut and attach these two pieces of lath with nails (these piece were accounted for in the 28 you cut – so use 2 of the pieces you previously cut).
  • You will now turn your trellis back over and attach the last 8 pieces of lath, horizontally, continuing below the vertically laid pieces.
  • **For more of a privacy screen, you could choose to use more lath and lay all of it horizontally, with less spacing between pieces.
  • Optional:  Stain or paint your trellis/screen.

unfinished trellis…pre-staining


all done! (I used Fuhr heritage wiping stain in Venetian Oak  – a great low VOC stain.)

Happy Thursday – enjoy some time outdoors!

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simple stoolI have very old pipes in my house, and my tap water is not very appetizing.  Even the dog agrees.  So, following much research, I recently purchased a stainless steel countertop water dispenser.  It’s been taking up counter space in my tiny kitchen ever since.  This week I decided to build a stand for it.  Not long ago, I discovered Ana White’s website, an amazing resource for free woodworking plans, many very simple.  I built this stool using her plans.  It could easily be used as an accent table, a plant stand, or any number of things!

water dispenser

This posting has a lot of links!  I should mention that I have zero affiliation with any of the products, brands or websites mentioned – just linking to the info in case you want to explore further.

I really enjoy building accent furniture, so I invested in a Kreg Jig, which allows me to make pocket holes. It’s incredibly handy and simple to use.  If you know how to operate a drill, this is a breeze.  They have several different models, so even if you’re on a budget, the bare bones model will only set you back $20.  I splurged and purchased one model up, since it allows you to drill the two holes (shown below) without any re-positioning.  Holes can be left as is or filled with special inserts or wood filler.

pocket holes

This stool doesn’t require a Kreg Jig, but it does require a miter saw capable of making a double bevel.  If you don’t have one, there are plenty of other plans that don’t involve angled cuts.  For those new to woodworking, should you build this stool, I have one suggestion:  either forego centering the rungs or simply use all 2×2’s… replacing the 1×2’s with 2×2’s.  This advice is only for those who are new to woodworking and may not have the appropriate clamps or a strong grip.  It will save you time.

I opted to go with a slightly distressed finish for my stand.  I began by lightly sanding the  edges and corners of the stool – with a heavier sanding on the seat corners.  Then, I painted all of the edges with raw umber artists’ acrylic (any dark-colored latex paint is fine, and would probably be better, I just didn’t happen to have any).  There are a ton of distressing tutorials out there on the web, for those interested.  I was too impatient to find one, so my method was trial and error (if you’ve read my recipes, you’ll soon see that my building and baking skills have a similar style, ha).


Next, I painted the entire stool using some leftover ‘perennial’ green (which just happens to perfectly match my tea kettle!) Benjamin Moore Natura paint (which is zero VOC).  This may require two coats.  If you’re not familiar, VOC stands for volatile organic compounds – they’re the harmful stuff that’s emitted into the air.  Whenever possible, I purchase zero VOC paint and low VOC stain and primer.  I think it’s important to support environmentally-safer options, especially when the products work just as well!  Plus, why would anyone want to have excess chemicals floating around inside their home?  Dutch Boy Refresh paint is my favorite zero VOC paint, and what I typically buy these days.  Be aware that despite being zero VOC before mixed, colorants are not always zero VOC and so for those who are sensitive, your eyes may sting a little and you will pick up on a bit of odor – still, far better than traditional latex paints.  

Once all paint was dry, I took a sanding sponge, and gently sanded the edges of my stool.  This allowed the dark undercoat to show through.  Sanding irregularly in terms of how much you sand and how hard you sand will make it appear more natural.  If you sand too hard and the bare wood shows (see the bottom edge of my rung in the photo below), you can always go back and dab some dark paint on the area, then lightly wipe off any excess.  Keep in mind that the more textured your wood was to begin with, the easier it will be to create a naturally distressed look.  You may want to seal your project; I didn’t, because I was in a hurry and figured a ding here and there will only add character.  



Over the next several weeks, I’ll be constructing two more shorter stools to replace an ugly bench that goes with my kitchen table, as well as some new doors for my kitchen cabinets.  Gardening is also in my thoughts, so stay tuned for an easy indoor set-up for starting seeds.

 Happy building, and I’d love hear your techniques for creating a distressed finish!


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valentines giveaway

In the spirit of upcoming Valentine’s Day, I am giving away a corn heating bag (see my last post for a make-your-own tutorial)!  

It seems I may have a slight obsession with these bags.  I have chronically cold hands, feet, everything… I heat one up and rest it on my lap every night – keeps me warm and lets me keep the house thermostat lower!  The bag is eco-friendly and reusable – made with 100% cotton thread and fabrics, with a washable cozy flannel cover.  It can be heated in the microwave and used as a bed or body warmer, or placed in the freezer for use as a cold pack.

One winner will receive the bag of his/her choice (colorful chevron or simple cream, as pictured above).  Apologies to my overseas readers, but this contest is open to US residents only.  I’ll keep you in mind for the next giveaway…

TO ENTER: This giveaway has ended, and the winner will be contacted.  Thanks to all those who entered!

Bags are also listed for sale in my Etsy Shop!

If you’re interested in receiving future DIY tutorials, recipes, nature photography and more, please subscribe to my blog on the upper right-hand sidebar!

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