Category Archives: Green

Reclaimed Wood Table

A few months ago I was able to get my hands on some great old wood when a gentleman I know rebuilt his front porch.  When I asked, “do you have a plan for all that old wood?” (trying to hint around that I wanted it) his response was, “a good match.”

055

I couldn’t stand idly by and watch him burn that beautiful wood, so I asked if I could have it. Now, the tricky thing was this was in Louisiana. I live in Texas. And I had flown to Louisiana on this trip. I went to LA a lot for work at the time, and I knew that eventually (because of project circumstances) someone would have to drive the work truck out there instead of fly, so I would just ask them to bring the wood home for me. Easy peasy. I selected some nice pieces because I knew I wouldn’t need all of it, and I stored it away for the next team to drive up. However, there was a miss-communication and the gentleman that let me have the wood thought that I wanted all of it afterall! So when the next team drove up he helped them load a half-bed full of old lumber. Geez.

I ended up taking more than I had planned, but I felt terrible that the rest was thrown away. NO ONE WANTED IT! And I definitely didn’t have space for all that lumber. I couldn’t even fit it in my car – I DRIVE A PRIUS!

So several months have gone by, and I finally got the guts/energy/inspiration/whateveryouwanttocallit to finally do something with the old lumber.  However, since I have had it for several months, Hubby thought it was taking up too much room in the garage (which it was), so he put it outside next to the garage. Where it got rained on, and full of spiders and roaches, and started to grow fungus. Grreeeaaattt….

I was able to wipe all the surfaces down with a wet rag, kill all the spiders and roaches, and then I set the wood out to dry because it had absorbed so very much rainwater.

All set up and ready to dry. Three minutes later there was a major domino effect because of the clumsy lab, trying to get me to play fetch.
All set up and ready to dry. Three minutes later there was a major domino effect because of the clumsy lab, trying to get me to play fetch.
Cibolo trying to help me by knocking everything over trying to get me to throw his toy.
The Clumsy Lab.
That's a dog head, staring at the toy he just dropped.
That’s a dog head, staring at the toy he just dropped, which also knocked over my drying boards.

Also, I raided the barn at my parents’ house recently, and turned up with this:

Old bench
Old bench

This is an old bench that my mother has had forever, and it was her grandmother’s. Obviously something along the way had removed the top, so I decided this would be a great base for my first attempt with this old wood. And the bench was already a beautiful color, so there was no need to re-stain it.

Seeing as how I HATE spending money on things that I can make myself, I looked online for a nice pattern that I could turn into a stencil and I found this:

The stencil
The stencil

I thought about simply putting it into the corner of the bench and having two or four corners be decorated instead of the center, but then I thought that I really need to expand my horizons with stenciling, so I decided to put this into the center of the bench and using the same stencil four times to make a circular pattern. Also, I decided against doing my chalk method and instead attempted to cut out the pattern from a clear transparency, since I was going to be using the same stencil multiple times I didn’t want it to get stuck to the roller or soggy with paint.

Also, thanks to some advice from Ashley over at Domestic Imperfection, I got some clear polycrylic to protect the beautiful blue paint that was already the amount of distressed that I loved. The last thing I wanted to happen was for the blue paint to chip away the first time someone sat on the bench! Also thanks to Ashley’s advice, I tried it out on some extra wood first to see how it would behave. What I discovered was this: It looks much better brushed on than sprayed on – when it was sprayed it didn’t seem to go on evenly, and I could see bubbly marks. Luckily it dried slow enough that I could spray it on and smooth it out with a foam brush. Also, I tested what it would look like when I painted over the polycrylic. I did NOT like how this made the paint look. Because of the now smooth painted surface the new paint didn’t go on evenly. So I decided that I would paint on the pattern and then spray it with polycrylic to seal the final product. Also, as several DIYers have pointed out, I bought water-based polycrylic because the oil-based kind is known for causing discoloration in your paint over time.

The wood in place, and the stencil sort of in place
The wood in place, and the stencil sort of in place

The next step was to build a frame for the wood to screw into place. I didn’t want to attach the reclaimed wood directly to the bench wood, because I was afraid that I would screw it up terribly, and ruin perfectly good wooden bench legs. So instead I spent $1.67 on a 1″x2″x8′ dowel to use as a frame. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with this because I have never framed anything out like this before, but after one or two miscalculations (this bench is a very weird size, so there aren’t exact inches. The measurements were like 11.62 inches instead of 12) I got the frame set.

Old legs plus new frame
Old legs plus new frame

I also was nervous about attaching this to the bench legs, but I guess I needed some sort of stability, so I bit the bullet and screwed the frame into the legs.Sort of.

Too scared to drill through the old wood, I didn't quite get the hole deep enough for the screws. Oops.
Too scared to drill through the old wood, I didn’t quite get the hole deep enough for the screws. Oops.

I drilled some cheater holes into the wood first, and then put in the screws. Unfortunately though, I was so concerned about drilling too deep and going right through the bench frame, that I didn’t drill deep enough so the screws started stripping before I got them flush with the wood. Good thing they will be hidden by the top 🙂

After a few cold snaps and not wanting to work in the garage/yard because I just wanted to be warm, I sucked it up and got the energy to work on it again. Also, and I will say this was the real hold up, I didn’t have a good way to steady the boards while I attached them to the frame. I was worried about them being too far apart from each other after I screwed them into the wood, and being stuck with them that way.

Until just a couple weeks ago, when Hubby and I went to Harbor Freight so he could buy a manual log splitter. I saw these awesome, huge, heavy-duty clamps, (that were only like $10 each) and I knew that was what was missing from my garage repertoire I had been trying to build up. A few days later, I had the top attached.

Top Attached with Pattern

Now, in order to do the pattern on the top, I had a couple ideas. I thought I could do the chalk method I had used in the past, but then I was afraid that the pattern would be too busy for the chalk to work. I thought about stenciling, but I had recently had bad luck with a home-made stencil, so I was a little gun shy. And the last thing I want to do is screw up this beautiful reclaimed wood! So I decided that I would cut out the negative (white) space, and use it to trace with a pencil. As I was cutting out the negative space, the positive space tore in a few places, so I was definitely going to have to trace with the pencil instead.

And I also discovered that the pattern was actually too big to put into the center and repeat it 4 times, making a perfect circle. Whoops, I guess I should have checked that. Oh well, I like the idea of the corners being decorated too!

I taped the stencil down and drew the shapes in with a pencil. I made sure to have lots of light in the form of a head lamp to make sure I could see what I was doing clearly.

Stencil in Place
Stencil in Place

Here is a close up of what the penciling looked like.

Penciled Stencil
Penciled Stencil

I did two layers of white paint and then added a light gray to the edge to make it pop out a little bit, but not too much.

And this is the final product!Finished Product

Detail shot

Staging

  So now I have a beautiful accent piece that cost $0, and an extra seat if needed!

Thrifty Gifty Craft #3

I have great friends, but I also have FRIENDS. Like from the TV show. Pretty cool, I know. And they tried to do this in the show and it didn’t really work, but in real life it certainly does. Joey and Rachel live behind me. Jealous much?

Contrary to the episode where Rachel is terrified of a pigeon that flies inter her apartment, my Rachel loves birds. She has bird feeders in the back yard and a beautiful bird bath for them too. So when I saw this idea (also from Pinterest) I changed it a bit to fit her style more.

Finished Product

Rachel and Joey also have three cats (not a chick and a duck) so although I loved the idea of this project, I changed it to fake candles so that their house doesn’t burn down. Cats are somewhat evil, and they have a cat that likes to drink out of our glass, so I thought it would have been asking for trouble with real ones.

All I did was decide on a design and cut out the bird. Then put blue painters tape on the jars and trace out the bird on each one.

Now, of course you can do this with any size jars, really. I had one jelly jar that I saved but that was the only one I had, so I bought a mason jar to complete this.

001 (2)

After tracing the design onto the blue painters tape I cut out the design with an exacto knife and removed the rest of the tape.

Then just roll up some newspaper and stuff it into the jar. This does two things: keeps spray paint from getting into the inside of the jar, and gives you a handle for holding onto the jar while you paint it.

So therefore, by default you know the next step is to spray paint the jars. Then remove the blue painters tape and you have some perfect designs on the glass!

The finishing touches were white border paint around the edge of the birds and twine wrapped around the top with a pretty little bow. I love how they turned out, and I hope Rachel did too (I wasn’t there when she opened it)!

022 (2)

 

Thrifty Gifty Crafts #2

I made a few gifts for friends of mine for Christmas, and I really tried to put a lot of thought into what they would like. Like Trixie with JD I knew that my friends Dr. and Mr. Smerek would love this:

Finished Product

I did get this idea off of Pinterest, but only the general idea. I used the wood that was reclaimed from an old patio that I used for another project that you will see soon!

This was a really easy project. I used the same technique for the lettering as I did for my Rustic Sign DIY and added a black shadow on the lettering to make it pop out against the blue background. I also used some twine for the hanger, and I used some steel brackets to connect the boards together. I did have some issues with connecting the boards together because the wood was so old that it was sort of bending and not looking at all like a finished product. I also tried to get some of those wood bracket things like these:

bracket

because I was low on tiny screws, so I was trying to not use any. THESE DID NOT WORK.  The super old wood was too hard to hammer them into the wood, and they ended up just bending and looking horrible. So I ended up getting some long steel bars that were made for this exact thing, and lo and behold!  It worked, and ended up looking great!

When I gave it to Dr. Smerek for Christmas, she loved it, and even hung it on their mantle just in time for their family Christmas. And when they decide to have their 6 kids, I left room for each name or birthday, or whatever they want 🙂

The Human Garbage Epidemic

[Warning, this post is not as Light-Tight-And Bright as I normally keep my posts.]

While I was teaching biology labs in Grad School, I had the opportunity to get on my soap box from time to time, and say the things that matter most to me, and hopefully pass on some knowledge other than what was in the textbooks.

It’s been a while since I was on my soap box.

I have missed my soap box. [Steps up, and clears throat]

I posted this on my Facebook page here, but I felt that it was not quite enough to get my words out. It didn’t cover enough ground. I needed a bigger outlet. So I’m re-posting it here, with a little more oomph.

———————————-

I saw this video posted on Facebook about Midway Island. It’s a tiny island 2,000 miles from the nearest continent, that is frequented by seabirds like the Albatross, a huge seabird that flies for miles on end searching for food to feed their chicks which are hatching all over Midway Island.  The thing is, that the video was not so much about the island, but it was about how we are killing the next generation of Albatross because the island is covered in garbage.
Not only do the chicks find interesting things to eat while they are waiting for their parents to return, but the parents are bringing back interesting items that are floating on the surface of the water. They are easy to collect because they don’t fight back, and they fill up the stomach, so they must be tasty morsels of food, right?
Except that those interesting items that they are eating are pieces of plastic that have washed ashore or are floating in the ocean.  True, they fill up the stomach, but they also don’t break down and take up space that true tiny fish morsels could be taking up. No nutrients are getting to the birds, so they die with a full stomach. Full of plastic cigarette lighters and bottle tops and whatever else will float on the water long enough to be picked up by the birds.
Bird body, full of plastic
Bird body, full of plastic
After fighting it’s way back from extinction (also caused by humans), the California Condor has started to fill their babies tummies with plastic bottle tops as well, killing the recovering population with what is termed Anthropogenic Junk.  Vultures, gulls, and crows are known for frequenting dumps to find food scraps let behind by people. The best place in the US that you can see the Tamualipas Crow is at a dump in South Texas.
It’s not just birds, either. I have found a dead calf in a pasture once, that had a stomach full of plastic grocery bags, baling twine, and all sorts of other garbage. I have seen cows in pastures chewing on plastic bags as I drove by, helpless. Bears are known for frequenting dumps as well, and I found picture after picture of camels, goats, turtles, seals, and dolphins dead or dying from eating or getting tangled in anthropogenic junk.

Turtle_eating_bag

Photo courtesy of The Center for Biological Diversity. Photo taken by Ewan Edwards / The Clipperton Project
Photo courtesy of The Center for Biological Diversity. Photo taken by Ewan Edwards / The Clipperton Project
Have you ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? This post is getting pretty long, so that will have to wait for another day.
Below is what I posted on Facebook regarding the video. It’s a little emotional, but for good reason. Please feel free to repost this. Either the video or my blog post as well. I don’t care. I just want to get the message out there. Maybe it will reach enough people. Maybe it will change some minds. Maybe it will help…
———————————————-
It’s amazing to me that people think that it’s ok to throw plastic on the ground and leave it there, as if someone else is coming up behind them and cleaning up the mess they leave behind.  It’s also amazing to me that those same people do …not seem to understand how massive an impact they are making on wildlife populations. It doesn’t matter where you live – your litter will find its way to a place where it shouldn’t be.
Doesn’t it disgust them to walk on the beach and see garbage everywhere? Doesn’t it worry them that they will cut their foot on the broken bottle that someone else left there? Doesn’t it bother them that there are dirty diapers and household waste where their children are trying to play?
How is it any different for animals? Why should they live amongst the garbage that humans produce? Why should their needs be ignored?
Because we are human? Because we are smarter? If we were so much smarter, than why are we letting this happen, year after year? Why have we not been able to stop being selfish? Why are we killing off the only place we can possibly live?
Doesn’t sound very smart to me.

———————————————–

I always like to end my posts with a positive note, so below are some links to how you can help. You can also find similar efforts in your local area.

http://www.keepaustinbeautiful.org/

http://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/get-involved/volunteer/adopt-a-highway.html

http://www.supcleanup.com/whoweare.htm

http://www.pickupamerica.org/about/press/picking-trash-organization-trying-heighten-awareness-reducing-roadside-litter

http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/marine-debris/

http://www.cleanuptheworld.org/en/

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I (obviously) feel very passionately about this and other conservation topics, and would love to discuss such things in the future if you would like!

What have you done, or what will you do to help clean up our planet? Let me know!

Summer Project: Greenhouse

I started writing this post in September (which was still later than I would have liked to be writing it), but circumstances have prevented me from continuing until now. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, but hopefully that will all be changing soon!

———-

I have wanted a greenhouse for the longest time, and I finally had Hubby on board for putting one together, but he wanted to wait until Fall so it would be cooler.  Well, I found one online for a REALLY good deal that I couldn’t pass up, so we bought it and had it delivered in June instead. So much for putting it together in the cooler weather!

The plan was simple – move the shed out from behind the garage and into a different part of the yard. That detail was not important.  It turns out that we also had to move A LOT of other stuff from behind that garage that we didn’t realize was in the way until we started to measure.

This took longer than it looks like it should have.
This took longer than it looks like it should have.

See that plant growing in front of the shed? My main goal was to build the greenhouse around that plant. I believe it is a mimosa, but I’m still not sure because I have never seen it bloom. However, before we bough the house the previous owner had tried to kill it multiple times, and it continued to grow, so I figure it needs to be there for a reason. So we were going to build the greenhouse around it.

After we moved all the stuff into the yard….

I didn't look like it took up that much space when it was behind the garage...
I didn’t look like it took up that much space when it was behind the garage…

We decided it was a great time to get rid of some things.  The pile of wood in front is a burn pile – rotten logs and a bunch of small shrubs that had starting growing behind the shed, mostly.  Also, Hubby and I were planning on sticking the shed somewhere else in the yard but it was much bigger than we thought it was. He called his parents, and they wanted it for the goats. Yes, they have goats, and the goats needed a new goat house.

I’m not making this up.

So Hubby power-washed all the mildew off of it, and we loaded it up onto their trailer so they could take it home.  We had to take down a portion of out fence to get the thing out of the yard in one piece, but it was surprisingly simple with 4 people!

The shed, loaded up and going to a good home.
The shed, loaded up and going to a good home.

Then we went to the Grown-Up/Homeowner Toy Store (Home Depot) and bought I-don’t-even-remember-how-many bags of sand and rock for the floor of the greenhouse.

So many bags...
So many bags…

We got some weed blocking fabric from our neighbor, let’s call him “Ben”

Almost enough!
Almost enough!

We had almost enough to cover the entire footprint of the greenhouse. Notice how we cut around the weed blocker for the “mimosa.” And then we put down the sand and gravel for the floor.

Floor is finished
Floor is finished

I know it looks like it in the picture, but those orange flowers aren’t coming from my tiny “mimosa” tree – those are my neighbor’s on the other side of the fence.

Hubby was smart and had this set up while we were working!
Hubby was smart and had this set up while we were working!

After the weed block and the rock were put down, we had to wait for delivery…

The giant Semi-Truck backing down my street to unload the greenhouse.
The giant Semi-Truck backing down my street to unload the greenhouse.

Of course I had been anticipating this forever, but it was a day later than I was told it would be, and then the delivery guy called me lost, driving around town unable to find my neighborhood. He had apparently driven around for a long time, because he knew all of the landmarks/buildings around me! Then, he said they are just supposed to leave it on the curb for delivery, but since he was late he would take it up to the garage for us. I wanted to say, ‘you would leave a 200+ lb. package on the curb? When we have to be present to sign for the delivery?! How does that make any kind of sense?’ But the guy was nice, and I know he doesn’t make the rules, so I kept my mouth shut.

The greenhouse was delivered on a Tuesday, and Hubby and I had talked about waiting to build it until Saturday.

That didn’t work.

I got home from work on Wednesday, and Hubby already had the bottom frame built! It came together a little at a time every day, and by Sunday it was done. I’m so glad we didn’t wait until Saturday to START.

Day One
Day One
Progress
Progress
Almost there....
FINISHED!!

After we built the greenhouse, we of course had to FILL IT with stuff, and we had some shelves that we took out of the shed (the goats said they didn’t need shelves) and got some shelves from Hubby’s wonderful uncle Bubba. First thing we did was power-wash the shelves, and then I painted them.

Short shelf: Before
Short shelf: Before
Tall Shelf: Before
Tall Shelf: Before
I LOVE THIS COLOR.
I LOVE THIS COLOR.

I just bought a quart of this paint because I was sure it wouldn’t take that much to paint two short shelves, but I thought I was smart when I bought the paint to include primer in it, so it went on REALLY thick.

Short Shelves: After
Short Shelves: After

I realize that I don’t have an “after” picture of the tall shelves, but I had run out of the blue paint, so I just used the last bit of green paint from when I painted the kitchen after we bought the house. It looked great, and I had JUST ENOUGH to do 2 coats on the tall shelves before I ran out!

So here it is, in all its glory! The greenhouse, mostly full and beautiful ❤

TaDa!
Ta-Da!

Bucket List

Not too long ago, a couple girls at my office, Zombie and Poltergeist Prevention, Inc. asked me what I was going to do for my birthday. Jokingly, girl #1 said “what are you doing for your birthday? Climbing Mount Kilamanjaro?” And girl #2 agreed with her that we are always adventuring, so there is no telling what our weekends have in store. And again today, I ran into an old friend from high school, and in casual conversation with her boss, whom I had just met, my friend explained to him that we are adventurous people. This is probably one of the nicest things someone has said about me. So it made me think about creating a bucket list.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order other than this is the order I thought of them, my bucket list:

1. Go to South Africa and Kenya for my 30th birthday

2. Climb Mt. Kilamanjaro for my 40th birthday (the girls at work had a good idea!)

3. Dive the Great Barrier Reef

4. Meet Jane Goodall

5. Swim with polar bears!

6. Swim with great whites! (Ok, ok. In a cage).

7. Visit all 50 states of the US

8. Visit every continent (I got this idea from my dad, the Intrepid Traveler, who has almost done this!)

9. Run a marathon

10. Hike the Pacific Crest trail

11. Dive every sea

12. See an octopus in the wild

13. See the aurora borealis

14. See the aurora australis

Now, by no means is this a finite list. I will continue to add to it, and I have already scratched something’s off my list, before I ever really wrote it down.

Like I have hiked the tallest peak in Texas. Twice.

I have been to Alaska and Hawaii, the two hardest states to hit when attempting to hit all 50.

I have been parasailing in the Florida Keys.

I can’t wait to start crossing a few things off my list, so I have room to add more to my list!

What are some things on your bucket list?

20130305-151732.jpg

Home Improvements #2

(Disclaimer – this is the first time I have tried to use the WordPress App with my phone, and upload the pictures. If they look weird, it’s because they EXPLODED in size, and I had to shrink them down manually. Sorry ’bout that. Still learning.)

There is a space in our backyard that the grass will never grow. When we bought the house the area was covered in an awful ground cover vine that was making the garage rot, and would eventually have killed the oak tree it was climbing up. We ripped out the ground cover, but then we were just left with dirt. I found some awesome flag stones in the front flowerbeds and turned them into a walkway in the backyard so we wouldn’t have to walk in the mud, but the area was pretty much useless, except for our redneck dogs that decided to dig holes all over it. So, Hubby and I came up with an awesome idea – lay rock in the area. The dogs wouldn’t dig there, it would be a nice flat space for me to put my potted plants, we wouldn’t be tracking dirt into the house constantly, etc. So we decided to gather native rocks from Hubby’s uncle’s house in the hill country. There, it’s easy to find nice big, flat rocks, and they were…what’s my favorite word?

FREE!

Now, I’m sure Debbie Downer would say, “you had to pay for the gas to get there, so they aren’t free rocks.” Except for the fact that we were also visiting family, which was a great, fun trip, so we would have probably done it anyway, even if we weren’t getting rocks. So there. FREE.

When we starting scoping out the property for rocks, we saw the biggest, flattest rock we could manage, and I HAD TO HAVE IT.20121205-122630.jpg

So what did Hubby do? He hooked up a chain and dragged it out!

20121205-122828.jpg

(Ok, so that’s actually a picture of his uncle pulling out the rock, but Hubby hooked the chain around it)

We loaded up our small trailer and the bed of the truck and headed home. We only had an hour to work before we lost the light, but I HAD to get some work done!20121205-122908.jpg

I arranged most of the stones the way I wanted them (more or less), and with the Super Mother Rock as the centerpiece, I mosaiced around it.

20121205-122931.jpg

I ended up not having enough rocks to finish, but we will be going back to his uncle’s house soon so we can get the rest.

20121205-122946.jpg

To fill in the gaps between the rocks, we spread pea gravel.

That way, we (hopefully) won’t have water pooling around the rocks, and it will drain better. That’s the idea, anyway.

20130112-073925.jpg

20130112-073947.jpg

So…Ta-Da! (Sort of) finished product! (This was right after it rained, it it was covered in oak leaves). Actually we will probably really and truly finish this project this weekend.

Next on my list of this to do to make our backyard even more awesome: see that dart board on the garage? I’m going to paint the plywood backdrop for it with chalkboard paint so we can keep score and write dirty jokes. Because that’s how we roll.