Category Archives: DIY

Stuff I did by myself or with some help.

Chalk It Up!

Okay, so I have climbed aboard the chalk board paint bandwagon.

But really, I was using chalkboard paint years ago, before everyone got all crazy about chalk board painting everything in their lives.

Five years ago, I made a chalk board for Younger Daughter’s college apartment. I stumbled on a huge frame at a thrift store. At Home Depot, I had a piece of board cut to fit, and then painted the board with a couple of coats of chalk board paint. It looked great.

I envisioned all of the roommates writing notes like: “We are out of milk and bread.” Or “I’m at the library, be home at 10.” Or “Let’s all have breakfast on Saturday.” But apparently, it was not a good idea to give college kids chalk and a chalk board. The chalk board soon became R-rated, known as a place to draw pictures and write things that would make a mom blush. Ahhh, but I digress.

After our new countertops were installed, I went crazy organizing my kitchen. I wanted every drawer, cabinet and even the fridge to look as good as the counters. So I gutted the place and got rid of everything I didn’t need or use or that was cracked or broken. Then I started in on the pantry.

My first thought was to go spend $200 on all new containers. I envisioned those beautiful clear ones with the white tops. But then I remembered I had a can of chalkboard paint out in the garage and decided to see if I might be able to dress up some of my old, 28-year-old Tupperware.

Yep, sure did. What do you think?



All That Glitters…

A couple of weeks back, I received a text with this photo: “Look Mom, I glittered my key.”

Of course I cracked up. Oldest Daughter had glittered her house key. Why did that not surprise me? The next day I met her for lunch in a little town half way between our houses to give her the dog to keep while we were away on business. First thing I asked was, “Can I see the key?”

She had it right there, all cute and sparkly.

How did she get the idea? Pinterest, of course.

How did she do it? Well, apparently she coated the top portion of the key with regular white glue and then sprinkled on very fine glitter. When it was dry enough, she did the same to the other side. When both sides were dry, she painted on a few coats of clear fingernail polish. After drying overnight, the key was good to go. I held it in my hand and there was no residual glitter.

Anyway, glittered keys are so cute. What else could be glittered in this fashion? Wouldn’t it be cute to buy some cheap, old silverware and glitter the handles in the same manner? Maybe do a couple of place settings in all different types and patterns. They would set a cute Valentine’s Day table, glittered flatware. In that same theme, I guess you could also glitter the base of cheap wine glasses.

Just imagine!


Sofa Table Turned Credenza

Sometimes you see a piece of furniture, and you just know there’s a place for it in your home. That’s how I felt about this table.

I wasn’t big on the knotty pine and the top had some deep scratches, but I knew it was meant for my house. And for $35 —well yeah!

So I get the table home and I study it for a couple of weeks. My first thought was to use it as a sofa table. It would fit beautifully behind our tall, camel back sofa. But I really didn’t need a sofa table. What I needed was a credenza behind my desk. But the measurements were very specific.

Of course, this was one of those MTB (meant to be) things. The measurements were perfect, within an inch. Plus, I desperately needed that extra table-top and storage space in my office.

So how should I finish it? My first thought was to paint it red like my office walls. Raspberry Truffle (Benjamin Moore) is the most gorgeous red. But then I realized if it was red and sitting against a red wall, well that wouldn’t work. So then I thought I’d paint it black and stain the top a dark wood. That seemed like a good idea.

So I stripped the table top, sanded down the rest of the table and wiped it with a deglosser. Once the table top was down to the wood, I stained it. And then I stained it some more. And then some more. But it wouldn’t take the stain. Okay, Plan B. I painted the entire table black.

I thought the handles would need to be replaced, but after polishing them up really well, they were MTB with the table.

Here’s the final table. I love it.



Last Look Mirror

Remembering back when Older Daughter graduated from college and started her first “real job,” we helped her move in a cute, tiny apartment near downtown Dallas. As we were hanging pictures, she mentioned that she’d like to hang a mirror in the entry way. We agreed that a mirror would look really nice in the space above a small entry hall table.

I told her, “I’m on it.” In no time I had salvaged a mirror from a local thrift shop, painted the frame and whisked it to Dallas. She hung it in the empty space. It was perfect.

A few months later when I was at her apartment, we were headed out the door, and I noticed she took a last look in the mirror, checking her lipstick, hair, etc. From then on we called it the “last look” mirror, for that last look you take when you head out the door.

Many times, I wish I had taken a last look before I headed out the door. Often I’ve had a chive in my tooth, really needed lipstick or had no idea that the glasses I often wear on my head had tussled my hair into the perfect birds nest. Since I generally go out to my car through the laundry room, I have decided I need a “last look” mirror on the wall that leads to the garage.

As well, Older Daughter now needs a different last look mirror for her new apartment. The configuration of the new place makes it impossible to use the bigger mirror from the last apartment. She has repurposed it in another place.

So I’ve been on the hunt for last look mirrors. Small ones, round ones, square ones, rectangle ones. Five dollars is the most I’ve spent.  I intend to paint and give one to Older Daughter, to Younger Daughter and whoever else wants one.

In a future post I’ll show the afters.



A Tale of Three Tables and a Chest

It’s my thought that you just can’t have too many tables. End tables, bedside tables, side tables, little tables, tall tables — they all come in handy to fill those empty spaces in our rooms. This summer, I ran across three tables that needed a home and some love. I found two of them at my favorite thrift store and one at a church garage sale. At the church garage sale I also found a neat little chest that I knew would be perfect for Oldest Daughter’s bedroom. She needed a table with a narrow depth to go under a mirror. She uses the mirror to apply her make-up in the mornings. The chest would be perfect as the dimensions were right and the drawers could hold all her cosmetics.

Okay so back to the tables. One was round and squatty and would be a perfect bedside table for my niece. One was tall and thin and would be a perfect for my nephew’s room. And the last one, Older Daughter put dibs on for her living room.

For all three tables and the chest, the color of choice was black, semi-gloss paint. I applied four coats of latex polyurethane to the tops of the tables for durability.

But the chest offered a challenge.  I couldn’t find handles that worked. (The original handles, one of which was broken, were inset within routed circles.) I couldn’t find any type of pull to fit the holes and cover the circles that had been cut out for the previous handles. Then I remembered these little round pull handles I had taken off another chest that I use as a printer stand in my office. Amazingly they fit the holes perfectly. But they still weren’t right.  The brass handles just didn’t work.

So a little silver Rub & Buff to the rescue. Perfect! Knowing Older Daughter was going to use it as a make-up chest, I lined the drawers in black and white scrapbook paper. Out of newspaper, I made a template of the top of the chest and took it to the local mirror and glass store. They cut glass top that makes for easy dusting and cleaning.

So that’s the story of three tables and a chest.


Skirting the ugly sink!

As you may know, we’ve been working across the miles on Youngest Daughter’s apartment in So Cal. It’s been a challenge living more than 1,500 miles a part, but we have made do.

If ever a sink needed a skirt…

When she first found her little apartment, one of the first worries was the bathroom. The tub was dirty and the entire bathroom was grubby. The old wall-mounted sink and the mirror above it were yucky. Plus she needed storage. When this bathroom was built there was no such thing as a blow dryer, flat iron or hot rollers. Where would she put all these things?

She suggested that perhaps she could put a basket under the sink, but again, that would make the ugly little bathroom look uglier. She told me her first thought was to add an old-fashioned skirt around the sink. I thought that was a fine idea.

When I was out there helping her move in, we didn’t have time to do much work on the bathroom aside from cleaning the awfully stained tub. Arriving home, I agreed with her, a sink skirt would solve a lot of problems and give the little ugly bathroom some needed love.

Using some left-over fabric, I sewed up a skirt based on measurements my daughter texted. It fit perfect!

Playing on the shabby chic concept, we decided on a redo that would involve black and white and blue accents, playing up the blue in the tile around the bath tub. She texted me the measurements of the sink — from wall to wall around it and from about one inch below the rim to the floor. Using some fabric I had in my scrap bin, I pieced together a skirt using white broad cloth and a black and white lattice print. I made the skirt so it could be taken off and washed. When we traveled out to So Cal last month on business, we took a little detour up to Pasadena to give the bathroom its much needed makeover, including a sink skirt.
The pictures tell the rest of the story.

A shelf repurposed from her previous apartment kitchen provided needed storage in the tiny bathroom. Ironwork used in a previous apartment was used above the door and the shelf as an extra accent!

I found this little medicine cabinet/towel holder at a thrift store. One coat of black spray paint and a new knob was all it needed. I had a mirror cut for the door. (It had held a needlepoint previously.)
I didn’t bring a sewing machine, so Stitch Witchery to the rescue in making the little valance in the shower. It was nice the cornice had a curtain rod already installed. She could use a new shower curtain, but until then we just added black trim to this $5 white one we found at Target.

Rub a dub, scrub a tub

When Youngest Daughter (YD) sent me photos of the apartment she was thinking of renting in in Pasadena, CA, well, I cringed. While the 1950s built complex was in a great part of town and had a charming “Mid Century Modern” appeal,  the apartments could do with some major updates. Most of the issues are with the layers of shoddy painting, dust, grime and worn-out appliances and fixtures. (Not to mention the pinch pleat drapes and window-unit air-conditioner.) Regardless of these short comings, the apartment had good bones and is a great place for her at this stage of the game.

YD’s biggest issue was with the bathtub. I’m pretty sure it was one of the few things original to the apartment and boy was it dirty. Well technically it was clean, but it looked really dirty, even after scrubbing it with Comet. The biggest issue was the horrible rust stains.

Do you think it can be cleaned my daughter asked?

My real expert on stains was my Mom. She was a stain aficionado. She knew how to soak, scrub and scrape away pretty much any stain. And she kept Super Clean l in business. What is Super Clean? It’s a heavy duty automotive cleaner that she would buy, dilute and put in a spray bottle. It truly was designed for engine cleaning. You buy it in the automotive aisle at Wal-Mart. Throughout my life it was known as Purple Stuff. But since Mom is not here to help me with stains (and a lot of other stuff) anymore, I consulted Google. Here are the suggestions for removing rust: CLR Rust Remover, toilet bowl cleaner, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponges, SOS pads and Coca-Cola.

Well let me tell you, this tub was one hot mess. I almost asphyxiated the entire complex with my cleaning concoctions. What I found was that all these products work, marginally. It took two days of elbow grease, three bottles of toilet bowl cleaner, three Magic Eraser sponges, three Coca-Colas (diet and regular), two SOS pads and Purple Stuff to get the tub white. And also one entire bottle of Scrubbing Bubbles. Essentially I would work on the tub for about 20 minutes every two or three hours. The best product for the rust was the toilet bowl cleaner, but you had to let it dissolve the rust with each application. And I scrubbed, and scrubbed and scrubbed. I didn’t wear gloves. Yes I should have. My hands hurt for days after this adventure!

Also I would note that the CLR did not work well on this particular tub or these rust stains.

As well, after all the cleaning was done we sanded the soap holder, taped it off and spray painted it silver.

The ugly kitchenette makeover

I  love to see before and after (B&A) photos of just about anything. To prove that, I’m going to show you the most incredible B&A in which I’ve ever been associated.

A couple of months back, Youngest Daughter (YD) rented an apartment in Southern California. Amazingly, it was in a great, safe area and it was affordable. Now the aesthetics, not so good. But you know the old adage: Location, location, location. We can make it cute I told her. Then she sent me the photos of the place. I started doubting myself at that point.

A pitiful little “kitchenette”

I stared at the photos she sent me of the ugly little kitchen. She said the landlord called it a kitchenette. I didn’t know what to call it.

For three solid weeks leading up to the trek to California with a U-Haul full of her stuff, I thought about that unfortunate little kitchenette. She suggested that a pot rack would help with the lack of cabinet space, and I thought she needed some sort of shelving unit over the sink. But the biggest issue was color. She asked the landlord if she could paint and he said, “Have at it.”

Isn’t this amazing?

So not only did we arrive in California with a U-Haul full of furniture, I also brought along everything we would need to transform that pitiful little kitchen in just one day!

We started with a quart of Behr paint – it’s Home Depot’s house brand. The color is Cloud Burst (490F-5) — a greenish-blue color. Using that paint chip, we found a few matching accessories that she already had and we acquired a few more at Ross and TJ Maxx. The bar stools were hand-me-downs from my Mom’s lake house. Before we left for California, I painted them the same color that we would paint the wall.

Before & After

I found the pot rack at Hobby Lobby on sale for $19.99, and the spice rack/shelving unit over the sink was procured at a thrift store for $9.99. The prints above the sink she and I got in Paris (yes, France) a few years back.

Also note that we took down the patterned room divider. It was warped and falling down anyway. Taking it down opened up the room and cured the kitchen of its chronic claustrophobia.

Other low-cost changes included new knobs for the cabinets (from grungy, black, hammered iron to oval shaped brushed stainless); repainting the white portion of the bar area (adding vinyl shelf paper) and finishing it off with a colorful rug that just fit and tied all the colors together! Amazing don’t you know!

What did we spend? About $125, give or take!

Just decorate it!


ED's sorority dorm room

Every inch of space in OD’s dorm room in the sorority house was decorated





So I’m not interior

designer and neither are my daughters, although we love the art and science of decorating. We aspire to create rooms that are comfortable, functional and just a bit out of the ordinary. And we will decorate any space, no matter how small. An example: One time our built-in microwave went on the blink. The appliance guy had to remove it and take it to the shop for a couple weeks until a part came in to make it work. For a couple of days I stared at the empty hole above the oven.

Then I brought a pot of ivy from the living room to give the hole some life. Next I added a ceramic rooster and then a colorful stack of cookbooks. Sweet Hubby came home from a trip and noticed: “You decorated the hole!” Until the microwave came back and was re-installed he would show anyone who came by that I had decorated the hole.

But I digress.

For several years now, one of the best pleasures I have had is helping my daughters decorate their dorm rooms, college apartments, first apartments, second apartments. In some cases, those dorm rooms were just a bit larger than our infamous microwave hole.

In the beginning, our effort to decorate their spaces mostly involved curtains and duvet sets, maybe a rug here or a framed poster there. But as their spaces improved so did their tastes, and eventually, their budgets.


One of Younger Daughter’s college apartments was so tiny you sort of fell into the room.

I remember one semester when Eldest Daughter (ED) was studying abroad. After returning she would be moving in her first college apartment. Most of the apartment’s spaces had already been decorated by the roommates, but she would have her own room to do up. And that we did. During the entire time she was away, I would take photos of things I had seen at stores like TJs, Marshalls and Ross and email them to her. She’d give me the yay or nay. When she got home, I had amassed a stack of stuff for the apartment. Then together we found a thrift shop bedroom suit and gave it a new life with a coat of paint and new hardware. We  sewed curtains, combined two comforter sets and came up with a cute and chic bedroom on the cheap!

I wish I had a photo of the decorated hole. It was classic.

It’s a wrap


Painting Christmas wrapping paper was among her first crafting adventures.

She had so much fun painting wrapping paper she didn't want to quit.

She had so much fun painting wrapping paper she didn’t want to quit.

For years and years, my daughters made home-made wrapping paper at Christmas. I think we started the tradition when Oldest Daughter was about two years old. I sent Sweet Hubby to the store to buy some white wrapping paper and he came back with an entire roll of butcher paper. It took us several Christmases of homemade wrapping paper to use that huge roll. After it was gone, we would go down to the local newspaper and buy end rolls of newsprint. Kids of all ages love to paint.

The first few years, I’d mix a recycled margarine tub of red tempera paint and green tempera paint. We would roll out two or three a long rolls of paper on the driveway. Then I’d dress the girls in raggedy clothes, and then hand them both a sponge brush and a bowl of paint and tell them to go for it. Lots of smiles!

On my roll of paper I’d try to paint patterns of Christmas trees and holly and even circles and squares and stars. In the early years, the girls just painted big splotches of color. As they got older, we added silver and gold tempera paint to the mix, as well as sponges cut out in holiday shapes. One year I remember we even used cookie cutters as shapes. Another year I carved shapes out of potatoes.

Before you paint, make sure there’s ample time for it to dry. The paint will dry all chalky if it is applied too thick, which is what little kids do every time. But it’s all usable. After it is good and dry you roll it up into roll, the painting on the outside.

Then, since you saved so much money on wrapping paper, you go out and buy really nice ribbon to adorn your homemade paper. Some years I’d tie up bows made of red and green raffia. Other years, especially after we added the silver and gold paint, we’d use wired silver and gold ribbon. Another year, we painted on brown craft paper and used hemp rope as ribbon and hot glued huge silk poinsettias on each package.

I think it was the junior high years when we stopped making our own paper. Anyway, last week I was on the Square and saw that the newspaper was selling end rolls of newsprint. Yep, the light bulb went off. I had a ball making my own wrapping paper, alone, savoring the memories of when our two little girls couldn’t wait for Christmastime.