The Deck Is Back On The Roster

I’m hesitant to definitively state what we’ll be working on this summer because we’re still figuring that all out, but over the last week or so I decided the deck was making it back on the roster. When we built our deck a few summers ago (here, here, here, here and here) we knew we would eventually have to refinish the railings. All wood requires upkeep and our mahogany rail is no different.

So while the deck railing looked like this when we finished:

DSC_6941-01It now looks a little more like this:

DSC_9004-01DSC_9005-01I am officially throwing the gauntlet down against myself to get this project done by the fall. Now I’m putting in on my blog too.

At least the deck doesn’t still look like the photo below. I think we can all agree even a worn rail is indescribably better than the previous hazard. That makes me feel better at least.

Deck_BeforeHere we go! Now stop grumbling me, you did this to myself. Wait, what?



DIY Firewood Tote

As a blogger there are certain times I feel up to writing technical posts, and other times I don’t. Today, a day where I lose my wallet in the morning only to find it after work, and only to get home and find that I forgot my cellphone back at the office, feels like a day I’m up to writing a technical post. This should get interesting. 

What was also pretty interesting was the state of our wood tote as of a few weeks back.

DSC_8305When you heat your house primarily with wood it means firewood totes take a beating, and this one which we’ve had for many many years was no different.

DSC_8307I knew it was time to get a new tote, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to buy one. First, I can sew well enough that I figured I could make one. Second, a lot of the totes I saw seemed like they were constructed for the casual user which is great, but wouldn’t work for us. Third, after researching the ones that would hold up for us I realized the design was the same as our current one and it was a design we just didn’t love. I’ll get into that more in a minute.

So that left me with one option which I happily delved into—making my own firewood tote. Sometimes it’s nice to see the finished product before reading a “how to”, and sometimes it’s also nice to know the difficulty and item list, so here you go.FirewoodTote

DIY Firewood Tote:
Difficulty – easy leaning to moderate

  • 1/2 yard artists canvas
  • one yard (maybe a little more just to be sure) heavy duty nylon strap (also known as nylon webbing)
  • All-purpose of heavy duty thread
  • Sewing machine, unless you’re a glutton for punishment then by all means sew this by hand
  • Two pieces of wood, about a foot or 14 inches long each. I think my piece was about a 1/2 inch by 2 inches.
  • Way to cut the wood into the correct dimensions/trim if needed (I used our compound sliding mitre saw, aka chop saw, but a hand saw would work fine)

The Process:

The first part was researching to figure out what most totes were made from that could hold up to our near daily use for months on end. Cotton duck seemed like an option but then I found artists canvas. It’s the same canvas you see in art stores, just sold in fabric stores on huge bolts. I remembered reading online that someone had used this, and since I couldn’t find any cotton duck and the price was right I went for it. I ended up finding mine at the Marden’s in Lewiston for $3.99 a yard. It’s so wide on the bolt that I only needed 1/2 a yard for this project. I bought a lot more than I needed knowing I could make more of them for other people, and just to have around. The saying goes “You should have bought it when you saw it at Mardens”, so I did because Mainer’s understand it may not be there the next time you go.

FirewoodTote2014 (3)The second step was deciding what to do for strapping. Last summer some of the siding material Andy bought was from Coastal Forest Products. The product came wrapped in this cool nylon strapping with their name on it. I came outside, saw the strapping and immediately snagged it. I specifically remember thinking it could make for a really good firewood tote strap. Any heavy duty nylon strapping (webbing) will do though. I’ve seen it on amazon in 10 yard increments for pretty cheap, but I’m guessing places like Home Depot or Lowes would have some. Heck, if you wanted a wider strap you could even buy a nylon tow rope if you have the machine to sew through it.

FirewoodTote2014 (17) Finally it was time to solidify my design. So many firewood totes have flared out edges to help to keep it from slipping out the sides. Taking the time to make sure it’s carefully stuffed in the edges is just not something I’m willing to do for as often as we use it. I remember one time I did, just to see what it was all about and I never did it again. A basic rectangle was all we needed.

With artists canvas, strapping and design solidified it was time to start sewing. So here’s my method step-by-step (day by day – Patrick Duffy, you slay me).

  1. Lay out your canvas. Cut it at about 1/2 a yard (or a little wider than your typical size log). The width of artist canvas makes it hard to keep everything square, so I’d recommend using a rotary cutter, ruler and self healing mat if you can.FirewoodTote2014 (5)
  2. Once you’ve made the cut, take the two long sides and fold them over about 1/2 an inch or so. The good thing about artists canvas is it’s easy to press down. I wouldn’t recommend putting a hot iron to it though. You’re welcome to try, but I wouldn’t trust ruining my iron to test my theory that it would melt. This fold is going to make for your first seam. I found it easiest to make this seam by placing my ruler on the inside of the canvas and folding over the edge of it.FirewoodTote2014 (6)FirewoodTote2014 (7)
  3. Sew the seam down. Make sure to lock the seam down (going forwards and backwards) a couple times at each end. Keep in mind that this can be a bit slippery. My stitches weren’t perfectly straight, but they got better the more I got used to sewing on the canvas.FirewoodTote2014 (8)
  4. To really add some strength to the seams I did a double fold and then sewed down again. Once the long sides were done I repeated step 2 to 4 on the short ends.FirewoodTote2014 (9)
  5. With the edges all sewn down I added some extra structure to the ends at the (awesome) suggestion of my brother in law. He made the good point that adding the wood would help keep the edges from falling over when you’re hauling, and I’ve found it has made the entire thing easier to pick up. To judge where to make my pocket for the wood I laid the canvas out, laid down the wood, and simply folded it over, giving myself enough room to make a snug but not super tight pocket. I ended up cutting my wood pieces a little shorter so I would have enough room to sew the final end shut once the wood was inserted.
    FirewoodTote2014 (11) FirewoodTote2014 (12) FirewoodTote2014 (13)
  6. Next up came attaching the straps. Attaching the straps is a little more on the moderate side of easy, but it definitely isn’t difficult. Start by turning your freshly creased canvas over so the folded seams are facing down.FirewoodTote2014 (14)
  7. When you place your straps, you’ll want to remember that you will not be sewing above the crease. Remember that you’re folding that over to sew down to put the wood in. You can’t sew the wood pocket before you put the straps on, because they you would sew the pocket shut that you need to put the wood in. You can’t sew the straps on after you put the wood in, because you can’t sew through wood. So you’ll want to start your handle height from the crease. For instance, in the phone below I wouldn’t sew the strap on above the “e” in “Forest”.FirewoodTote2014 (15)
  8. The next step of sewing on the strap is two fold. First, it’s important the strap is one long giant circle before you sew it on—think hoola hoop. I did this by sewing my nylon strapping together. Keep in mind (as you’ll see in the next step) this nylon strapping is going to be hauling a lot of weight. You don’t want this to snap or you’re going to end up with a lot of heavy wood slamming down your legs. This would be less than pleasurable. I sewed mine together in about a million different ways to ensure there was plenty of stitching holding them together.FirewoodTote2014 (16) FirewoodTote2014 (17)
  9. Second, I’d recommend starting to sew the strap at the center of the canvas. This ensures you end up with an equal handle on either side.  To find the center, fold down the two top sections like you would if the wood was inserted, and then fold the rectangle in half again, like you see below. Also I recommend laying everything out before sewing, and pinning if you need to (second photo below). FirewoodTote2014 (18) FirewoodTote2014 (19)
  10. Finally, start sewing! Here are some photos of my stitches so you can see my technique. To start I did a single stitch just to get everything tacked down. Then in the center and on the ends I did super extra stitching in a box and X shape. I then did two more long stitches overall to give extra strength and to help keep the strapping from folding up on the edges or catching on anything. FirewoodTote2014 (20) FirewoodTote2014 (21)
  11. Finally it came the time to sew down the shorter edges so the wood could be slipped in. I stitched it down, and then sewed up one side which left a pocket for me to slip the wood into. FirewoodTote2014 (23) FirewoodTote2014 (24)FirewoodTote2014 (26)
  12. The final step was making sure the wood was far enough back in the pocket and then stitching the open side shut, sealing the wood inside. FirewoodTote2014 (25)FirewoodTote2014 (27)

That’s it! This entire project cost me $2.00. If I had to buy the webbing it would have come out to a few bucks more (though I’d have lots of strapping left over, but that’s no problem around here as it would be used). The other option for straps if you don’t want to buy nylon strapping would be to make some canvas straps. It wouldn’t be horribly difficult to cut some wide straps, sew them all together, and give each strap a good solid hem on either side (same method as hemming the actual tote). It would be a heck of a lot stiffer and maybe harder to sew overall but it would definitely be doable. I’m debating on trying this method in the future just to see how it works. If I do, I’ll be sure to update you.



P.S.  I waited to write this to ensure it held up and I can now say after at least a few weeks of daily use it’s held up great. Removing the weird side pockets was a great decision, as was adding in the wood for stability. Overall I’m really happy with how this turned out.

The Small Things

I hold that while the big things are nice, it’s the little things that really matter in a relationship. I don’t mean a romantic relationship either. Have you ever had a friend who just got it? The ones who don’t care if your house is messy, they just love having a warm cup of tea with you. The ones who don’t care what you look like, just as long as you can laugh together. These are the people I keep around me in my personal life, and it means the world to me. It never ceases to totally surprise me though when one of these awesome people does something that seems so small to some, but is so meaningful. Recently one of my friends, Meg, did this for me.

When Meg and her husband showed up a few weeks ago to visit with Andy and I, and another couple we love hanging out with, she came with a beautiful old basket in hand. It was stunning. She then handed it to me. I didn’t know why. Her answer was simple: she thought of me when she saw it. That alone meant so much to my heart. Then she told me the story behind it. An elderly woman had passed away on the small island where her family has a home. Meg walked by as the woman’s family was cleaning out the house and spotted the basket. They were getting rid of it. She thought of me and saved it. It was a little mildewy too so she cleaned it, and then painted the outside of it. Simply because she thought I would like it. My heart melted a little bit.

DSC_8147After melting at the little details on it from the hand painting on top (original) to the rusted nails and hinges, I opened it to find something else.

DSC_8137Not only had Meg saved this beautiful basket for me, she then also filled it with other treasures she found along her way that made her think of me…

…sweet vintage napkins…

DSC_8138…a beautiful recipe box…

DSC_8141…with recipe separators still inside…

DSC_8142….she even remembered one my favorite tea, Rooibos.  When I said it was one of my favorites she smiled and said “I know, I remembered.”

DSC_8139Once I got to the bottom I realized it wasn’t a normal basket – it was a pie basket. I had been casually looking for a pie basket that I loved for a while. This basket is going to be something I take good care of so I can hopefully be carrying pies and other yummy things in it for a long time to come. It’s so beautiful, but the meaning behind it is even more beautiful to me.

DSC_8143 DSC_8145 DSC_8144I’m an extremely sentimental person, but it’s something that’s hard for me to admit and express sometimes in person, though I’m never shy of saying a very genuine thank you. Spilling my sentimental guts is where it gets hard for me, so it’s easier for me to write.

The point is, sometimes it’s the smallest thing in life that mean the most to people and I’m one of those people. Then again, I guess that’s why I have the friends I do. We care about each other in the small ways. The ways that we’ll do something just because it made us think of the other and we know they would appreciate it. It’s not about being lovey dovey, it’s not about looking for a “thank you”, it’s simply about expressing appreciation for who the person is. I hope I return this to my friends enough, because they make my life so colorful and wonderful and beautiful.

I’m so thankful for friends. Also, I’m thankful for friends who love salvaging and saving beautiful pieces, and picking the free tables at the dump as much as I do.

Do small things mean a lot to you too? Are you sentimental also?


Treading It Up

There are also a lot of other dogs in our lives between our two, our friends, and our families. When it came to our new stairs we knew there would be scratches and marks, but let’s just say we weren’t expecting total destruction, at least not so soon.

StairTreads_January (4)It turns out dogs don’t get great grip going down the stairs so it looks like they are running in place a la Wiley Coyote, or they get nervous and fly down them so fast while digging in the entire way. While our girls have become used to the stairs finally, and we’ve taught them how to go down gently, the damage had been done.

StairTreads_January (2)Andy kept asking me to look into options to protect the stairs going forward, but permanent carpet in my house is a huge zero. We had a permanent runner before renovations and the amount of hair/dirt, etc. I found underneath of it when we ripped it up was enough for me to swear them off. Also, I LOVE the feeling of wood stairs below my feet. I do not love however the damage being done to the stairs.

StairTreads_January (3)After looking online and discussing it more, we landed on carpet stair treads that can more or less be held in place with a piece of anti-slip mat beneath the carpet. They fit the bill in three ways:

  1. They aren’t permanent. This means no holes to patch down the line when we refinish the treads.
  2. They are easily cleaned. All I need to do it pick them up, vacuum under them, shake the rugs off, and toss them in the washer and dryer.
  3. They’ll give the dogs security. Our dogs have really appreciated the other two area rugs we’ve put up at the top of the stairs and on the landing. Winnie has definitely felt more comfortable walking around in these areas.

About two months ago I started doing some research knowing I wanted at least partially natural fiber, and a neutral light color. I looked around and found a couple different options, and while nice they were ultimately too expensive. My favorite on Amazon, would have been just right but I couldn’t stomach paying almost $32.00 a tread. It would have come out to $320.00 not including the non-slip mat, tax and shipping. No thanks.

I had put the tread issue on the back burner until Andy asked about it again recently. I gave researching a second shot for something both appropriate in material, color and budget and came across these babies on Sierra Trading Post from Colonial Mills.  Wool blend? Check. Good price? Check. Oatmeal color? Check. Rounded edges? Eh, we’ll live with them. I also picked up the adhesive kit which I might just buy an extra roll of because it is seriously the best adhesive I’ve ever used. Overall the entire cost, including a discount code they had on the website, came to $153 and change.

Earlier this week this box showed up at my house.

StairTreads_January (1)With these inside.

StairTreads_January (5)When it came to installation it might have been the absolute easiest project I’ve ever done in my life. I needed one tool – a box knife.

First, I figured out where I wanted each tread to go and since our treads are the same exact size the whole way up  and we don’t have to deal with a tapering staircase like some people do when they install a runner. I decided to center them after deciding I didn’t like them closer to the wall.

Second, I measured out the adhesive which is sticky on one side and a protective sheet on the other. You can either cut it before you stick it down on your tread, or do what I did and stick it down on the tread while on the roll. Once I had it where I wanted it I simply pulled slightly up and slashed it right below where it came off the roll (so I wouldn’t cut into the next layer on the roll). Note that I did not cut on the stair itself, that would have left a gash in staircase.

StairTreads_January (6)Once it was all laid down I peeled the plastic off, and then laid the carpet tread on top of it. I made sure to press down all over the tread to get good contact and make it stick well.

StairTreads_January (7)

StairTreads_January (9)The dogs are particularly huge fans of them. Winnie and Rosie have realized they don’t have to worry about grip and have been going up and down them very easily.

StairTreads_January (10)StairTreads_January (11)There has been one persistent case of stair related stress these treads won’t fix – Primrose trying to steal whatever Winnie is carrying in her mouth while descending the stairs. What a brat. A brat I love very much and who might be starting to think her name is, “LEAVE IT.”

StairTreads_January (12)Overall we’ve had the treads installed for a few days now. So far we’re really happy with them. They haven’t shifted a bit despite multiple trips up and down by two adults and two dogs. I even used some of the extra awesome adhesive backing to keep the runner at the top of the stairs in place and it too hasn’t budged which surprised me.

As for cleaning, these treads are meant to be spot cleaned but hah, in our house they’ll be thrown in the washer at some point. I’m sure of it. As for design, they fit the bill for what they are. They might not be the most fashion forward decor item you can put up but sometimes function edges out style and truthfully, we really don’t mind them.


Closet Organization Overhaul

When we built our master bedroom we knew there would be one thing that wasn’t very “master” about it—the closet. Before we even started building we knew we would have to run the stove pipe through the corner of our closet and then box it in to protect against the heat and to finish the space. While the other bedrooms have full closets, this one needed to be designed to utilize all the space most efficiently. It also meant cutting down my wardrobe and being honest about what I actually wear. Truthfully it was cathartic. Since we keep our shoes here, I don’t have to worry about closet space for them.

Once the bedroom was done and we moved into it, we knew some of the finish work was going to wait until winter – and that meant a closet system. Until then we moved the wire rack we had been previously using up into the closet, and threw a basket on the floor next to it. It was…uh…well, it worked for the time being.

DSC_7874-01Weeks ago we decided it was time to start building a closet system. Last weekend after all of the holiday hubbub Andy took my plans, changed them around slightly to make things flow better, and built an awesome free standing system that incorporated everything we needed. When it came to building storage for our closet I knew I had to have at least three types of areas:

  1. Two hanging rods for Andy’s shirts, and my suits, button downs, professional shirts, etc.
  2. A smaller but longer hanging area for my dresses so they aren’t wrinkled
  3. Cubbies for my trousers and sweaters, with space on top for sweatpants/shirts

Andy did not disappoint, then again, he has never built something that did. Using Poplar sawed from his grandfathers lot in Ohio, he ran it all through the jointer, the planer and then the table saw to prep all the pieces. He built the system using a series of dado’s, glue and screws.

DSC_8001 DSC_8002 DSC_8008 DSC_8009DSC_8024 DSC_8032 DSC_8040This is where things got a bit hairy for me. This is one solid piece, just as it looks. We had to get it up the basement stairs and around a corner into the main house, and then up the new stairs and into the bedroom. It was heavy, and I’m awkward so it wasn’t the easiest thing for me to help with but a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.

DSC_8044 DSC_8048 DSC_8052It was a feat getting it up the stairs, but also into the closet. In order to get it in we had to remove the wood around the wood stove pipe and very carefully tilt it in and then up, and then replace all the wood around the pipe. In the end it all slid in without having to rebuild anything. Even though it’s free standing, it literally cannot fall out of the closet. It can tilt forward until it hits the header, but it can’t actually come out. That said, we’ll still be securing it with screws we just haven’t done it yet.

DSC_8054 Andy then measured where all the rod holders had to go, screwed them in place, and then cut the wooden rods to fit and installed them.

DSC_8060 DSC_8067On the top we have a larger space and a spot to hang my dresses, and on the bottom we have a larger space and I ended up with a spot to hang my skirts too! The skirt rod ended up being a last minute addition that ended up working perfectly and I love it.

DSC_8069 DSC_8068We’ve had this system in place for almost a week and  it is already way better than the previous wire shelf which has been relegated to a plant stand. I haven’t been able to get a great photo of it filled out yet, but here’s the one I snapped the other day on Instagram. You can see here that Andy has also put a few hooks up so our robes no longer get tossed over the end of the bed.

31ba8c5478c111e381dd1273149d0f6d_8Let’s just look at that before and after again.



31ba8c5478c111e381dd1273149d0f6d_8Junky iPhone photo and everything, and it still looks way better! Here’s to the small things being finished up.