DIY Pallet Tiki Bar

I don’t claim to be an engineer, an architect, or even a contractor. To be honest, I don’t entirely know what I’m doing when it comes to construction. My skills can be described as so-so at best. And my body (the saw marks on my arm, the nail blackened by a hammer blow, various cuts, scrapes and bruises from statistically unlikely mishaps, of which I am the queen) attests to this. But, what what I lack in talent I make up for with enthusiasm and ingenuity. And cheap (mostly free) materials. pallettikibar2

The body of the bar is made of free wood pallets. The frame for the roof and the wood for the bar top came from the wood pile at the transfer station (or dump, as it’s called in the south). To spruce it up, I bought one $25 6 foot by 8 foot roll of bamboo fencing from the hardware store (FYI – it’s not quite 8 ft long). I cut it using garden clippers into two halves, one 3.5 feet, the other 2.5 feet. I wrapped the taller section around the bottom, cut the shorter section into two halves and used it for the roof, attaching with a staple gun.

pallettikibar  pallettikibar1

I bought the cheapest laminate floor tiles (12 at 88 cents each) for the bar top. To attach the roof, I built boxes for the upright wood pieces, screwed them to the bar top, and screwed up from under the bar top into the wood rod. I cut notches into the top of the rod for the frame of the roof to fit into so that I could lift the roof off and store it when the snow comes. I spent less than $10 on new wood, buying only two 2 x 2 x 8 which I sawed in half and used at the upright rods holding the roof up, for a total investment of under $50. Which leaves money for the most important part of any tiki bar:


(FYI – these awesome plastic tiki cups came from the $ store!)

Adventures with Asparagus

I like asparagus. Imagine that said to the tune of I like turtles. I know those extra syllables throw it off a little, but you get the idea. I hope. Anyways, I like asparagus, but they tend to be pricey up here in the northeast and they like to try and force you to buy a big bundle which you have to eat immediately or they go slimey and bad and and then money is wasted, and since no one’s going to pay me to film a TV reality series called When Vegetables Go Bad, I  end up putting ginormous portions of asparagus on our dinner plates. (I’m going somewhere with this, I promise, just stick with me a bit longer).

So I’m trying this whole growing my own fruit and veggies thing, and I discover that asparagus are not only a perennial, but also that they will survive the snowy winter to come back year after year. The only catch is that you have to wait a few years for your first harvest. So I thought to myself, “You better get started, then.” So I did. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. Going out to my asparagus patch, day after day looking for something, seeing nothing, wondering if an underground rodent stole my crop or if my seedlings were bad. Staring at the dirt, feeling like an idiot, thinking, “I like asparagus,” to the tune of that little zombie kid saying, “I like turtles.” And now we’ve come full circle.

Then, after two months, when I’ve almost given up hope, I see this:


Looks like an asparagus, doesn’t it. So, instead of staring at the dirt, I got to look at this little guy while I crouched down next to the garden bed and cheered him on. Then this happened:

IMG_20160607_093802632     And this:            IMG_20160607_093752329

Now this:



And more little asparagi raise their little heads and branch out into weird looking things every day. I wasn’t wasting my time! And the moral of the story is, if you’ve planted asparagus and you’re getting tired of staring at dirt, wait a little longer, my friend. If you plant them, they will come. You just won’t be able to harvest them for the first two or three years. And since I have no idea how to harvest asparagus, that, too, will be an adventure!

DIY ~ Strawberry Pallet Planter


imageimageThis was something that I saw on Pinterest and thought, “I could do that.” So I got a pallet that was in good shape, found some weed barrier stuff at the local dollar store, and loaded the staple gun. I doubled the material, cut it slightly larger than necessary, centered it, and began with a staple in the middle. Voila! A strawberry planter made out of a pallet. This project couldn’t have been much simpler and the strawberry plants seem to love it. No fruit lying against the soil, rotting.





Building Fences

fenceMost couples (I think) do something special for their anniversary. An evening out, a romantic getaway, something relaxing. For our anniversary, my husband and I built a fence.

fence1The fence was something that I really wanted, and had wanted
for a long time. The fence would free up so much time and alleviate so much frustration, because the fence would be used to create a yard where I could let the dogs out to play. Never again would I have to chase a naughty Jack Russell around the house until I managed to corner her and get her harness on several times a day. No longer would my elbow get wrenched, my shoulder get yanked out of its socket, or my neck be violently snapped while being fence6jerked around by a care bear schnauzer turned raging hellhound, the mere step over the threshold triggering a Jekyll-Hyde change. I would be free!!!!!!

Neither of us had ever put up a fence before, and it seemed a bit daunting. So much so, in fact, that we actually got quotes to see how much it would cost to pay someone else to do it. When the labor estimates came back at over three times the cost of materials, it really should of told us something (like how much fun erecting a fence really is). fence5

Let me start by saying that they don’t call New Hampshire the granite state for nothing. Every time one of us drove the post hole digger into the ground for our next 4×4 – clink. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes it was small rocks that we could dig up. Sometimes we dug up big rocks. And sometimes, after revealing enough of our underground foe to discover that is was a boulder way too big to remove, we were forced to get creative. So maybe a few fence panels don’t have posts at the very end. Maybe we had to buy a few extra 4x4s to support the fence wherever we could get them into the ground. At the end of the day, (actually, two), we got the job done. It took us a third day to get the fence stained.

fence2Now the dogs have a great yard to run free and play in and I have the luxury of reading while they get their fresh air and sunshine (they still have to be supervised). It was a fantastic anniversary present, and best of all, we spent quality time working together to achieve our end goal. Next year, I’m thinking we’ll build a garage.


Drywall, Tiling and Grout, Oh My!

When we bought our house, we really liked the fireplace in the bedroom. Or maybe I should say that we liked the idea of it. What we didn’t like was the outdated, beat-up unit that was currently in the wall. We also weren’t too thrilled that the model was a direct vent gas fireplace, which isn’t just unsafe, as everyone rushed to tell us – it’s also against building code, even here in New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state.

First let me say, I don’t think I had a firm grasp on what the project would entail before I started. This wouldn’t be a quick out with the old, in with the new swap, but a multi-faceted job that would require several skills which I did not yet have.  So the first logical step would be doing some research, self-education and planning, right? Yes. Yes it would. Is that what I did? No, it was not. Because I am me, and in my world (ie. when I’m working on a project by myself that makes me emperor by default) I make the rules.

diySo, Step 1: Demo – Demolition is the first step for several reason, all of which make perfect sense to me. For one, starting a project by having some fun gets things started right. For two, once you demo, you can’t change your mind. There’s no going back. Once there’s a hole in your wall, something has to be done about it. So with my husband’s help, we pulled the old unit out, which meant pulling the stone strips that framed the old fireplace off the wall. FYI – the stone had been stuck to the wall using some extraterrestrial glue which was crazy strong and tore chunks out of the drywall. I’d love to get my hands on a tube of that stuff, so Alf, if you’re listening . . . alf

Step 2: This is the ‘reality strikes’ phase and it just might be the scariest step of all. It involves staring at the big hole you just made in the wall, and realizing that you’re the one who has to do something about it. So I put in the new electric model, which was quite a bit smaller than the original unit, and stared at the empty space around it. Then I turned the fireplace off and on a bunch of times for inspiration, so I could imagine how nice it would (hopefully) look when I was done. When it became apparent that the blank space wasn’t going to magically fill itself in for me, I reluctantly moved on.

diy2Step 3: I bought some drywall, joint compound and drywall tape (which isn’t really tape at all – it’s paper with no sticky side – who knew?). I also bought a brand new utility knife. This one had never tasted blood before, and I’m happy to say it still hasn’t. My last one was like that bloodthirsty plant in Little Shop of Horrors. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to use a knife without hearing it say, “Feed me, Shannon.” I’m not one of those people who watch youtubes to see how to do something. I like to read how, and see step by step pictures. I used this LINK to learn how to drywall. I even cut it out in one piece with little rectangular ears on it to fix the drywall that was ripped of by the glue. It was perfect. Until I bent down to get the drywall tape and it fell on my head and broke. Go figure. I used the broken pieces and it turned out just fine. (NOTE – I knew I was going to tile over the area, so I did not have to be concerned with doing the neatest job, as you can see.) diy1

Step 4: After I admired my drywall job for a week, reveling in all my drywall handyman glory, it was time to learn how to tile. I used this LINK for the basics. Then I went to my local hardware store and found the perfect tile. Or, at least, the tile I really wanted to diy3use. The catch – it was backsplash tile, and had interlocking edges. It was also made of stone. The interlocking ends meant that I would have to cut the ends off the tiles for my edges. The stone meant that it would have to be cut with a saw. The saw meant either buying or renting a piece of equipment that I wasn’t willing to spend money on. So I settled. I found square sheets of mosaic stone tile that would not need cutting. Tiling diy4wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It was actually pretty easy until I got to the grouting part. For some
reason the grout was flinging around the diy5room like I was a monkey with a pitcher’s arm. This being a bedroom and not a shower, I really wanted to keep the clean-up to a minimum, so I used my hand to apply it. Maybe not the best idea, but it kept the fling radius to a minimum. My last remark about tiling is that scrubbing the grout off of the tops of stone tiles, with all their porous little clefts and crevices, was not the most enjoyable hour of my life. I imagine that it’s much easier to clean porcelain or ceramic tiles. diy7

Step 5: The last thing that remains to be done is to capture anybody with eyes that you can get your hands on and make them admire your handy work. This step would be easier if my emperor status and power extended beyond the realms of my own imagination, but they don’t. Just for the record, my dogs think I did a fantastic job, but prefer my kitchen adventures.

The Old Made New

wp33It would be wonderful to move into a new house and buy all  new things. To hand pick each piece of furniture for the exact spot and purpose in your new abode. Maybe that’s the way it works for some people – but not this one.

wp32Maybe if my husband and I weren’t both such practical people, we could give it a try.  Live on the wildside. Spend unnecessary money despite having just bought a new house that needs work. Go into debt for decoration’s sake. Honestly, though, that seems kind of silly to me. There’s always a feasible solution if you try.
I knew buying the house meant making our current furniture make do. But after a half dozen moves and a lot of living most of it isn’t looking too great anymore. The solution? Chalk paint. Seriously.

wp31wp34Chalk paint covers just about everything, and made even my most hideous and abused furniture looked shabby chic, which, apparently, is in style. There’s plenty of DIY tutorials out there if you want instructions on how to give it a try. I looked at a few and spent a couple of hours giving it a go. Now my old furniture looks like the new furniture made to look old that’s in so many stores right now. Hmmm.


The Right to Relax

wp42I find that I’m having an incredibly hard time allowing myself time to relax when there’s so much work to be done. I grab a book, curl up on the couch with the dogs, but it’s hard to concentrate on the words when your eyes keeping wandering. How can I read when there’s caulking that needs to be done? Tile that I want to regrout? And painting? So much painting, every square inch of the house because I’m picky and because I want to – because I finally can! Only I can’t, because it’s too cold to paint outside and too cold to open the windows for air ventilation to paint inside, but there’s so much painting that I’ve got to get started on it somehow, somewhere.

wp43Which left only one option. The worst one.

At some point in time, a porch had been built on to the house. It has the potential to be lovely, but it needs work. Mainly elbow grease. Which is the least fun form of work. But as the only area warm enough with ventilation to enable painting, I could hear the task calling (yodeling) my name.

wp44The issue is that the siding wasn’t cleaned before the porch was added, and now that it’s part of a glass enclosed porch, you can’t exactly use a hose to wash it off. The task was actually near the top of my list because I’m planning on sitting on that porch, with a book, as soon as it warms up a bit more. Only I couldn’t possibly enjoy a book with a dirty wall at my back. So I grabbed a stack of rags and my watering can and went to work. After scrubbing, sanding flaking paint, and scrubbing again, I finally found myself painting. Now that the painting is done (and the color has dried several shades lighter than it went on) I find that I’ve finally earned the right to relax. For at least the rest of the week. I hope.

If You Give a Girl a Hammer . . .

wp39If you give a girl a hammer, she’s going to want a wrench, too. And a drill, some screwdrivers, pliers, and whatever else she needs to reign terror on the household repairs that plague her. Bob Villa ain’t got nothing on me. (Except saws. I really need an electric saw. Then I really need to learn how to use it.) wp38

I’ve always been willing to roll my sleeves up and give repair work a try, with the exception of electrical and plumbing work. I stand by my need to hire an electrician. Fooling around with live wires when you don’t know what you’re doing is a recipe for disaster. But plumbing? What could go wrong there?

wp36So as I prepared to call the two professional’s whose expertise I required, I looked at my list. I needed to arrange a hot water heater to be installed, something I know some people DIY, but it’s heavy work and requires time spent in the basement, so it’s not really a new skill I feel the need to acquire. But no hot water in the upstairs shower? Hot water instead of cold in the washing machine? Those sounded like mysteries that I could safely investigate without adding too much to the cost or repair (I hoped). wp37

I began by removing the facet in the upstairs shower, which I was pleased to discover was an easy(ish) fix. The dial inside the facet was set wrong, AND the handle had been put on upside down. With one victory under my belt, I moved on to the washing machine. Everything has multiple tutorials online now. I Googled swapping out water lines, grabbed a bucket and some towels, and set to work.

wp35The hardest part was pulling out the built-in shelf around the unit and the washing machine itself. Swapping the hoses really couldn’t have been easier. Now my washing machine has cold water, my shower has hot, and I have over an hour’s worth of payment for labor still in my pocket, ready to buy the supplies for my next DIY project. Today plumbing, tomorrow a garage from the bottom up. (Ok, so maybe not a garage built from scratch tomorrow, but it will happen. Wait and see.)

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