Sunday, August 30, 2015

DIY Sunday: The No Good Terrible Paver Patio Project


We had a wonderful weekend with friends. The weather was pretty perfect especially out on our new patio and firepit! 

Our patio was one of those projects that wouldn't seem to end. We bought the pavers when they were on sale about 2-3 months ago. We finally started digging about a month ago, and we finished last weekend. 

We decided to go with pavers after my in-laws gave us over 200 free paver bricks. The same week Lowes had pavers on sale 3 for a $1.00, so we figured, why not?

Because it sucked. Dear lordy. For someone that hates to measure, it was the fifth circle of hell.  First of all, digging up the grass was fast with a tractor but getting it to anything that resembled an even surface was work. Then you have to try to keep it level as you add in the different layers. Ha. That's funny. With two children that saw it as either a sand box or a starter hillbilly pool (depending on the day) we gave up on that myth early on. 

While we only spent maybe $300 or so on the pavers, the paver base and sand can add another $400 to the cost. We were lucky because my father-in-law knew a guy that could hook us up with some free rock and sand. (No. He's not in the South Dakota gravel pit mob)

When it came time to level out the sand, we just about screamed. My husband threatened to put an ad on Craigslist to find someone to finish the project. The kids removed sand at the rate we added it. They made sand castles in the area we just leveled.

My husband decided to take a nap at this point. I kept forging ahead. I decided to lay the paver edging while he slept. I got all the different tools I thought I needed to lay the patio. I worked on laying a perfect 12 by 12 square for about 3 hours. 

Husband comes back out refreshed, and the first thing he says is "uh. That's not square" I step back and look from a different angle. Yes. It's not square. At all. Commence the string of expletives that would make a sailor blush. 

At that moment we made a decision. How much did we value a level professional looking patio? We decided we valued our sanity, children's lives and marriage much more and just started laying bricks. We tried to keep them level as we moved along, but it isn't perfect. Which is really a metaphor of our life with two young children. 

Of course, it couldn't be that easy. Remember those free bricks we got? The ones we just were sure were the same size as the bricks we bought? The free bricks that were the only reason we decided to proceed on this aggregating quest? 

Nope. Not the same size. Just a hair wider and longer. Shoot. Me. Now. 

So we stared at the patio in the 90+ degree 450% humidity weather. Our brains were a burnt out melted mush. The Craiglist threat became a viable solution. Finally I realized we could just do a border with the free bricks, and we survived. Since we couldn't use the free bricks, we were 92 bricks short. We just made our tri-daily trip to Lowes and got it covered.

The kids were creating some sort of building with sand, bricks and wood.
Once we laid the pavers (over several days) we felt victorious. We had finished the patio. We had done the seemly impossible summer project. We no longer had a hole of mud in the backyard.

Then comes putting sand in the crevices. Easy right? Get the polymorphic sand they said. It will be easier they said. ("They" are the online tutorials I read and mostly ignored during this process) 

Well once I read the side of the bucket I realized the sand wasn't going to be all that easy. Apparently you can stain the brick if there is any sand left on the surface. (Specifically, red colored brick had a higher likelihood of staining) They recommend using a paint brush to sweep into each crack. That sounds like a ton of fun. We tried with the broom first. It became very clear that we didn't have enough sand. Awesome. Another trip to the store. (Face Palm)

Also, with polymorphic sand, you're racing the clock because you need to finish and let it dry 24 hours before it rains. We checked the weather report. No rain for days. We are good to start. Next day I go back to do the second bucket. Weather report now says it's going to rain for three days starting tomorrow evening. Well that's great. I've got to get the sand down immediately.

After doing a bit  more reading on the Young House Love blog, I found I could have used less sand and had an easier life if I wouldn't have just poured the sand right on the pavers the first time around (which was what the directions on the bucket said because they are capitalist pricks that want me to buy extra sand ;) ). The Young House Love blog suggested putting the sand in a ziplock bag, cut a corner and poured it in the cracks directly ala frosting bag style. That worked way way better. I even sat there and cleared every brick with a paint brush. 6 hours of paint brushing and filling cracks later, the sand was done. I wet it down and did an "anti-rain" dance

I woke up in the morning feeling rested. My bed was nice and cool, there was a nice breeze coming in, and I heard the gentle sound of rain drops on the roof. Yeah. Apparently weathermen are right on par with the accuracy of palm readers. (Bright side: I have a long life line and should have four kids)

Well the sand kinda survived and after spending 6 hours in the sun on a hot patio with a paint brush, I wasn't doing the process over again.  I moved our patio furniture out to the patio and drank a glass (okay, bottle) of wine and enjoyed our patio.

Would I do the project again? Sure. I would totally hire someone to do the project again. Ha!

Check back next week when I talk about our much easier (and cheaper) firepit addition to the deck. Now that was a highly rewarding project I would recommend. Positive attitude restored.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

DIY Sunday: Old School Desk Turned Nightstand

Hello Sunday!

We had a very busy Saturday. I worked on our patio until I ran out of pavers, took apart some old (new) chairs to spray paint and built some random swings for the kids. This cool weather has made it very hard to do anything inside. I have a huge pile of clothing that needs to be folded and a house that has mud trailed through out it. But hey, none of us are inside to see it anyways.

Once the snow starts to fall, I have a pile of projects to do inside including our master bedroom. It leaves quite a bit to be desired. The color on the walls is left over from the previous owner, we don't have a headboard and the nightstands were barely functional. We are still playing with ideas, but the color scheme is prepared. I've picked a navy blue for the walls (Navel from Sherwin Williams) with accents of mint and gold.

I saw a old school desk at a salvage yard and started thinking about making it into a nightstand. I thought was being super creative until I opened my recent copy of Country Living, and right there is a picture of a desk being used as a nightstand. So much for being creative. (Those darn crafty publishers!) However, I found two desks for $5.00 a piece at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, and I couldn't say no to the idea. Here's my tips on turning a school desk into a functional nightstand. Both nightstands with supplies only cost me about $15.00.

The first thing to do was take everything apart. School desks have adjustable legs that can also be removed with an allen wrench. It makes spray painting much easier, and makes it easy to adjust the height depending on your bed and bed frame.

Before you get down with spray painting, make sure you take second to prepare your surface. Rough up the surface with a wire brush and/or sand paper. Clean the dust and other surface dirt after you get it roughed up. I personally only use Rustoleum and Valspar spray paint. I get the smoothest finish and the most bang for my buck with those brands. (This project was a Rustoleum Gold and Ocean Breeze in Rustoleum) I also taped off the top of the desk since I had different plans for that portion.

Once you have everything spray painted, you have a couple of decisions. I thought about doing a Mod Podge top or doing some sort of wallpaper on top. I also thought about using some vintage yard sticks. In the end I decided to use something I had on hand, grey chalk paint. Before I got to painting though, I decided to make some changes for functionality. I wanted a hole in the top for my various power cables. I also wanted a place to slip a power strip cord out of, so I could plug it in discretely. I hate a bunch of cords showing.

I used a 1 inch drill bit to create my hole. I widened the hole a bit from the 1 inch so a plug would fit in nicely. I also used a large drill bit to drill on the side of the desk top so a power strip cord would fit through without making the desk top gap open.

My new cord hiding place. 

The desk before painting the top

Once I made those modifications, I sanded the top of the desk and applied two coats of grey chalk paint. (I tried the American Accent stuff available at Walmart, and I was actually pretty darn happy with the results).

New chalk paint top 

I'm really happy that we now have matching functional nightstands in our bedroom. Now we just need to wait for some cold weather to tackle the 100 other things wrong with the space.

This is our bedroom right now (before the nightstands). I'm planning on a wood headboard, a white board and batten, navy walls and some changes to the artwork.


Friday, August 21, 2015

#FreshinFifteen Challenge

Happy Friday!

I'd like to invite you to do a little jig in celebration for the forthcoming weekend. We are in full "finish patio or die trying" mode this weekend. Then I'm going to do another little jig to be done with that train wreck of a project.

While we're working on that, I thought I would do something a bit out of the craft wheel house. Kate at the Small Things Blog (if you haven't read her blog or watched her tutorials, please do. They are fantastic!) had a little challenge she posted this week. She's challenging people to look #freshinfifteen. Basically take 15 minutes for yourself in the morning and have a speed beauty routine. Since I work from home, my beauty routine usually involves me rolling out of bed, putting on socks (because who in their right mind sleeps with socks on?!?) and sitting in a chair. If I'm feeling really crazy, I might put jeans on instead of sweats. I know. I can barely contain the excitement in my life.

However, there is something to be said for the extra productivity and confidence you get for taking 15 minutes to get yourself put together. Also, if I decide to meet my husband for lunch or run to the store after work, I'm not trying to pull something together to avoid being put on the "People of Walmart" website. Now, if I'm going to be working on a DIY project, I don't really sweat going to Lowes covered in paint. I hope that it's obvious that I'm in the middle of a project and changing isn't real high on the ol' priority list.

Any who. Challenge accepted. Here's my #freshinfifteen.

As scary it is, this is what I looked like when I rolled out of bed this morning. Charming I realize. I don't know how my husband manages to leave in the morning when I'm looking so smoking hot.

So, I'm not much of a make up person. I wear some tinted moisturizer sometimes. I have real adult make up for nights out (as opposed to Lipsmackers lip gloss), but I don't bust that out too often. Children really stop the "going out with the girl friends to Carey's" lifestyle I had during law school. I did make an effort a few months ago to get some less dramatic every day makeup so I could do something on a more regular basis. To speed up my routine I have different make-up bags for night and day shades.

So, here's the post make up picture. Bare Minerals make up, Younque fiber lashes and some E.L.F. make up mixed in. Nothing earth shattering but at least you don't see my "cursing at the patio in 100 degree weather" blemishes. Yeah. That's a real thing. I'm actually kinda surprised there is such a difference. Maybe I should try this make up stuff more often.

As for my hair, I don't wear my hair down on days I know I'm going to be working out or working on projects (like today). Especially with the bangs that I thought "would be a good idea at the time and then realized as they were being cut they were an absolutely terrible life decision." Bangs are never a good idea. I feel like I need to get that tattooed on my arm, because I keep forgetting it never works. I'd tell the stylist I want bangs, and she'd look at the big warning on my arm and tell me that past self is reminding current self that bangs = annoyance and ridicule for months. Not a terrible idea except the permanent tattoo part...

I did a couple fast curls at the straight crazy ends and pulled everything into a braid and a mid knot. The mid knot tutorial is from the Small Things Blog (click here for the tutorial), and pretty much is my go to style now.

So, that's pretty much it. I do feel quite "fresh". And yes, I'm wearing flannel because it's 50 degrees out. Got to love Midwest weather. This whole fresh in fifteen business does make it a bit more difficult to sit at home for work. My dogs aren't nearly as appreciative of my effort as I feel like they should be.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Show & Tell: DIY Harry Potter Inspired Chess Set

Happy Hump Day!

I have one nerd-tastic project to share today. We recently added a chess board to our outdoor game table (click here for the post about my awesome game table). I decided I needed some chess pieces to go with our new board.

I started out by googling "DIY Chess Pieces" and "Unfinished Chess Pieces." One of the first items to come up was unfinished peg people. This is a DIY trend that is pretty new. Peg people are a fun way to customize kids toys. You can do members of your family, your child's favorite characters (I *may* be making some super hero ones for Christmas) or some dolls that are bit better role models than Barbies or Bratz dolls. (No hate daughter has Barbies as well)

I was all set to make a traditional chess set. While trying to find some ideas, I ran across this awesome tutorial by C for making a Harry Potter inspired chess set. Her set was really interesting and unique, so I decided to abandon the traditional set and go with a new nerdy set.

I made some variations to Carrielynneh's set. I decided my "queen" of the bad guy set would be Bellatrix instead of Deloris. Since the peg people I purchased had more female looking knights, I decided to make my good guy knight Molly Wesley. I do hope at some point Molly gets to kill Bellatrix. My pawns are Quiditch players and the strange looking rook for the bad guys is Lucius Malfoy. (He's the only one I just couldn't seem to get quite right)

Once I was done painting everything, each piece got two coats of poly so they will be durable. I then took a plastic bead container I already had and modified it to fit the set. The set is ready to use! Now if I could only convince my husband to join the Harry Potter band wagon.

The First Round of Paint

The Drying Station

The Paint Station

Painting Done, but No Poly Yet!

Painting Done and Poly is Dry!

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