Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"New" Desk Out of "Old" Stuff

Until yesterday I was in the market for a new desk. Hubby and I had bought a new desktop for me when sharing a desktop became untenable. Having both desktops on the same desk, while great because we can sit next to each other while gaming, ate up all of the work space for piling books and writing. So, we decided that another desk was in order, but given the cold temperatures here in the Midwest neither of us wanted to venture out to buy one.  Not to mention our no spending challenge for the first half of 2014.

Commander Sisko rocking his booties
At the beginning of the year, hubby and I decided that we wouldn't spend any additional money for the first six months of the year.  We have slipped a few times with new things for the dog, but felt that the cold weather definitely justified booties. The main point of the challenge is for us to use the things we have to solve problems. Also, we have enough house project stuff to keep us busy until the summer. Like many people, I'm really good at starting projects and getting them 90 percent done, but the push for the last 10 percent is tough. Without buying new project supplies, I'm forced to finish what I started. But I digress...

One of my "Cure" projects that I identified for the January Cure was to address the office.  I spend most of my awake hours in it and I want it to be a space that I enjoy coming to. No one really wants to dread going to work and if I can make my office warm and welcoming perhaps I'll actually finish the dissertation in a timely manner.  I do a lot of writing by hand because it helps me to focus on the task at hand instead of getting distracted by the internet and I like to spread out my books and materials while I'm working.  Enter the desk problem.

One of the first projects we tackled when we moved into the house was removing the upper cabinets from the kitchen and installing open shelving. All of the upper cabinets were relegated to the basement without a plan for them. We also had some left over shelving from when we lived in the apartment. Combining two leftover cabinets and the shelf made a perfect writing space and provided much needed book storage.

I'm really glad that we were able to solve our dilemma without resorting to yet another Ikea trip. I think I'll paint the cabinets at some point, but otherwise this is a functional solution to our problem.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Easy-peasy Non-dairy Banana Pancakes


1 ripe banana, mashed
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla


Mix wet ingredients together in a small bowl.  Mix the dry ingredients together in another bowl.  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the batter is mostly smooth.

Cook 1/4 cup at a time over medium heat.  Makes 5 pancakes.

I usually eat mine with honey or syrup depending on my mood.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Cure: Creating a Landing Strip

For the last few days I have been working -- on and off -- on creating our front entry way.  The major inspiration for tackling this part of the house came from the January 14th Cure assignment (linked).  Since moving into the house, I have given minimal attention to this area of the house and it shows.

At first, we had the entertainment center right next to the front door.  It didn't really work for me because the window was blocked by the television and we had to reach through one of the cubes to get to the lights.  Our house doesn't have a dedicated mudroom, so once you walk in the front door you are directly in the living room.  Making matters more interesting, the "coat" closet is across the room and up three stairs.  We quickly realized that something needed to be done since neither of us were keen on walking through the living room to the coat closet as soon as we got home to drop off shoes and jackets.

After reorganizing the living room into a different configuration, we had a defined entry way.  We added a place to hang our coats, a rug, and a bench to help provide a defined space for our stuff.  Yet, something still seemed to be missing. 

After reading the challenge guidelines and reviewing some pictures for inspiration, I realized that what was missing was a place to put our mail and the other stuff that comes inside.  Since I didn't want to spend any money on providing an entry way, I re-purposed the bookcase from the office to serve as a place to put mail, shoes, and dog stuff.  In addition, the bookcase sits next to the couch.  Now we have a place to put drinks while we watch television or play games.

By reorganizing the room and using existing furniture in a new way, we were able to create a welcoming entryway and cozy living room out of one room.  I still plan on painting the door white so that it blends in with the interior and changing out the mini-blinds for some Roman shades, but so far the downstairs seems to be coming together nicely.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Door Renovations: Everything I never knew about motise locks

One of the first steps in renovating the upstairs doors was determining if the locks were salvageable since there is no point is taking the time removing all of the paint and gunk from the lock if it can't even be used.

I started with the office door and removed the lock.  Once I got through the paint layered on top of the screws -- I strongly recommend an utility knife or razor -- it was easy business unscrewing the two screws and popping out the lock.  But then I was faced with the challenge of figuring out what type of lock it even is.  I Google imaged "antique door locks" and looked at pictures until I found one that looked like my lock (pictured below).  Based on what I saw, the type of lock that we have is a mortise lock.  These locks are installed in all of our interior doors, so it was important to know what to call it.

Main:  Guts of the mortise lock with super glued latch bolt, UT:  Front of the lock, UB: mortise lock case.

Armed with the knowledge of the type of lock installed in our house, my next step was to Google "fixing mortise locks."  Most of the websites I found talked about how to install the locking mechanism into the door and none really went into detail about how to actually fix the lock.  As mentioned in the previous post, when I first opened the office lock, I found the latch bolt broken into two pieces.  I super glued the parts back together and hoped that would be strong enough to fix the lock.

The picture of the guts above is actually incorrect.  After fixing the plunger, I tried to put the lock back together and had quite a bit of difficulty getting all of the pieces to fit together correctly.  In my despair, I started to look online for replacement locks.  I knew that buying a "new" lock was out of the question, so I started with antique hardware websites.  Two websites in particular were very helpful:
Historic Home Hardware was helpful because the owner sells all sorts of refurbished hardware, including mortise locks.  Each lock in his inventory includes pictures with the measurements of the important parts.  This was very helpful because I didn't know what was important to note about my lock.  As a result, I found out that the mortise locks in our home have a non-standard backset of 2-3/8" which means that we cannot buy just any replacement.  I also found out that the size of the casing is important with our casing being much smaller than the standard size.  While there was one set of locks that match mine available to buy, I am glad that I was able to fix the lock.

Historic Houseparts is a website that mixes antique parts with new parts.  I was able to learn the names of the different pieces of the locking mechanism and see how the lock is supposed to fit together.  While Historic Houseparts did not have a replacement lock for me, it did point me in the right direction for some future projects.  I'll definitely be visiting both websites in the future as the renovations progress.

Now that I have working locks, I guess I need to stop procrastinating and get the old paint off of them.  Until next time!

Best wishes!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Cure: Picking a Project

After completing the task for Monday, "The Cure: 10 Mindful Minutes," you would think that picking a project to complete by the end of the month would be simple because I could pick something to change in the office, but then you would be wrong.  The lovely people over at Apartment Therapy decided to add a few criteria for the chosen project.  The project must be:

  • able to be completed in a few focused hours this month,
  • make a noticeable difference, and
  • be something that we'll want to share.
I am adding the requirement that the chosen project must use the supplies that I have at home since I committed to a "no spending" challenge with hubby for the first six months of the year.  (More on that in a different post.)  Combining these four criteria into a single project is going to be tough.

I think that I am going to complete the paint prepping in the office this month which will include caulking all of the seams in the trim, removing the old and exposed telephone wiring, and patching the holes in the walls.  Prepping the office for paint is definitely something that I can accomplish in small chunks of time throughout the month.  I'm already in the habit of keeping the plaster patch and wood filler handy so that I can patch areas as I notice them.  You would be amazed at how much you see when you really aren't looking!  

Completing the painting preparations will make a noticeable difference in the office since I'll be able so see all of the patching.  Caulking the seams will be the least noticeable, but I'll be happy know that the random extra spaces are gone.

As far as sharing the completed work, I'll be sure to post a photo prior to painting the room.  The saving grace is that none of the existing holes and scuff marks are from us.  Like I've said before, most of the work is to restore our home to its original glory and fix the mistakes of the past.  Living in an 84 year old home, you're bound to have some wear and tear.

Finally, I already have all of the supplies that I need to complete the paint prep.  These are mostly left over from painting the downstairs.  The only thing that I'm truly missing is the actual paint, but buying it can wait until the room is ready.  More to come at the end of the month!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Cure: 10 Mindful Minutes

After mopping the vast majority of the house -- the bedroom will have to wait a bit longer -- today's task seemed like a walk in the park... or so I thought.  Today we were tasked with sitting in a single space for ten minutes and imagining what needs to be changed, added, deleted, or some combination of the three to make the most of the space.  I choose to sit in our office since that is where I spend most of my time.  When we moved into the house we decided to make the larger room the office and the smaller room the bedroom.  We don't spend much time in our bedroom, so it make the most sense to have the room with the best light and most space be the office.  The picture below is what I stared at for ten very long minutes.

This space just doesn't speak to me or inspire me.  Both of which are problematic since I will be writing my dissertation in this room.  Nothing say 365 days of irritation and frustration like a room that makes you want to be somewhere else.  I immediately identified a few of the problems with the room.

First, the room is white.  I am not a fan of white walls.  They make me feel like I am in a sterile, institutional environment, which is is the last thing I need.  After staring into space at our space photos for a while, it hit me that our color inspiration for the room should come from them.  I'm thinking about painting the room an energizing electric blue.  In order for me to paint, I'll have to prep the room.  Luckily, that's already on my 'projects' list from before.

Second, there is only one desk.  While hubby and I have made do with one desktop since the untimely demise of my laptop almost a year ago, we finally broke down and purchased a second desktop.  We are gamers and it's really difficult to play a computer game together when there is only one computer.  Plus, I tend to monopolize the computer during the semester.  I'm thinking about buying another desk that matches the one we already own and placing them both on the same wall.  Visually, it will look like one really long desk.  Placing the printer on the table between the two desks will make it accessible for both of us.

Sitting in the room and really thinking about its function and what could be done to make it better helped me to find the inspiration I needed to move forward in here.  To be continued...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Door Renovations

I have been thinking a lot about our doors lately.  Yes, I know it's a funny thing to think about, but doors are serious business.  They keep people and pets out of places they shouldn't be.  They hide messes when we don't have time to clean.  They provide a sense of safety and security.

The doors in our 1930 home are in need of some love, particularly the upstairs doors.  In the upstairs we have doors for the bedroom, office, closet, and bathroom.  Of these, only the bathroom door knob works correctly, but doesn't lock.  I guess if I had to choose a room with a working door, it would be the bathroom.  :)

Above is a picture of the office door.  I know that it looks in great shape, but that's really the power of white paint.  This door and its hardware have both seen better days.  For example, when I took out the locking mechanism to figure out why it wasn't working I found the do-dad in two pieces.  The first step to restoring it was caulking all of the seams for the trim.  I've already done that for this door, which is why you can't see them.  Next, I'll use wood filler to take care of the dents, dings, and gouges in the trim.  Then I'll repaint.

The door itself is going to be a bit more involved.  All of the fixtures are caked in paint from who knows when.  Given the age of the house and the style of the fixtures, I'm guessing that they are brass.  I'll take off each key plate and the latch plate and heat them in a solution of hot, soapy water.  That should soften the paint enough to allow me to brush it off.  (I already tried this with one of the latch plates and it worked great.)

I am super excited about finding and buying the correct skeleton keys for our house.  There is something about the look of a skeleton key that just makes me a bit giddy.  Having them will add charm and functionality to the house, but I need to do a bit more research on where to get the keys from.  According to our home inspector, there is a shop downtown that will let us take a bucket of skeleton keys home to figure out which one works on our doors so we can buy the correct keys.

When all of the hardware is clean and working, I'll move on to patching and sanding the dings, gouges, and scrapes in the actual doors.  Finally, I'll repaint the doors.  Repainting is going to need to wait until the spring when I can take the doors down and paint them outside.  That way I can paint them horizontally on saw horses and not worry about getting drips.  Like most of my projects, this is going to take both time and patience.  But I think it's worth it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Cure: House Projects

Since purchasing the house, hubby and I have talked quite a bit about the things that we would like to do to it.  While the house is largely functional and meets our needs, it does need some maintenance completed and I would like to decorate it to fit our style.  Unfortunately, the list of things to do can be quite overwhelming, but I stumbled on an awesome blog/website that is just what I needed to jump start this new year of productivity and organization: the Cure by Apartment Therapy.  Each day, they send me an new email with a task to be completed.  It's sort of like homework for my home.  :)

The first task was to create a list of 'projects' to be completed throughout the year by going from room to room and making a list of the things that need to be addressed.  I am posting my list here to help keep me accountable for getting these issues resolved.

Living Room:
  • Paint and trim touch-ups (completed 12/2014)
  • Install quarter round trim (completed 4/16/2014)
  • Paint the front door white
  • DIY window treatments
  • Re-upholster the armchair
  • Add color with throw pillows (completed 4/2014)
Dining Room:
  • Paint and trim touch-ups (completed 12/2014)
  • Install quarter round trim (completed 4/16/2014)
  • DIY window treatments
  • Rehang our wedding photo (completed 2/2014)
  • Paint and trim touch-ups (completed 8/2014)
  • Paint base cabinets white
  • Add handles and knobs to the cabinets
  • Install shelves in the tall pantry (completed 1/15/14)
  • Line the drawers with cork (completed 1/10/14)
  • Caulk the seams (completed 3/2014)
  • Install bathroom fan (completed 9/2014)
  • Caulk the seams (completed 3/2014)
  • Prepare the room for paint (completed 9/2014)
  • DIY headboard
  • Fix door so that it latches
  • Caulk the seams (completed 3/2014)
  • Prepare the room for paint (completed 4/27/2014)
  • Buy a desk for my computer (completed 1/27/14)
  • Fix door so that it latches (completed 1/25/14)
Most of what I need to accomplish in order to address the needs of the house include restoring it to its original glory.  The previous owner installed new baseboards and door trim throughout the house, but didn't bother to seal the trim with caulk.  As a result, there are unsightly gaps throughout the house.  The most difficult part of creating this project list was NOT tackling all of the problems as I found them.  I plan to add before and after pictures as I address each room.

The tasks for this weekend are cleaning all of the floors/rugs and stocking up on any needed cleaning supplies.

New Habits 2014

This year is going to be start of a new phase of life for me because I have finished taking classes and have embarked on my dissertation.  Normally, my time is structured for me by my professors and the classes I teach.  However, this semester (and for the rest of my career!) I get to structure my time.  It's actually quite daunting.  There are so many things that I want to accomplish, so I think I need to work on making a schedule that works for me.

I have been working on developing a morning routine that includes some sort of writing, whether that writing is on my dissertation, blogging, pieces for publication, etc...  The main goal here is to develop the habit so that my morning does not feel complete until it's done.  I recently read Courtney Carver's book, Mini-missions for Simplicity, that describes habit stacking.  A habit stack is any time that you do something that prompts you to do the next part of your 'stack.'  For example, when I take a shower I shampoo my hair, then wash my face, then floss, and then condition.  Each of the items that I need are right next to each other and it would feel weird to skip a step.  I am looking to develop something similar for my mornings on the days that I don't teach.  (Teaching days are bit different because I have to leave for the train by 8 AM which leaves little time in the morning for me to do much of anything.)

My current morning routine is a bit of a mess because every morning seems unpredictable.  I think some of that is because I try to cram a lot into the time before my husband leaves for work.  You would think that after being married for four years that I would have learned to not try to do any 'thinking' work before he leaves because inevitably he will want to talk about something and break my concentration.  Instead, the usual morning goes something like me trudging to the kitchen for coffee, doing the dishes while the coffee brews, heading back to the office to boot up the computer, starting to collect my thoughts, and then getting irritated because of interruptions.  I know that this isn't working, but haven't done anything to change it.

My new morning routine is going to need to be split into two parts:  Pre-work and post-work.  Pre-work will be the things that I can do prior to hubby leaving for work, while post-work will be the things that I can do after he leaves for the day.  Now that I've realized that I need two separate stacks, the next task will be to set them up.

What does your morning routine look like?