At the start of the summer I challenged my kids to make something everyday.  Big Girl looked skeptical, clearly imagining one giant project after another.  But, she quickly agreed once I pointed out how many different ways there are to “make something.”

For the next 5 posts, I’m going to share some highlights from our make something challenge.  The rules have been as basic as can be:  make something using your imagination (rather than a kit or strict rules) and as much as possible try to use stuff we already have in the house.  Cooking counts and so do temporary structures.

One of our cheapest and most impressive group projects was to make lanterns using mason jars, elmer’s glue, food coloring, and nail polish.  We mixed glue with food coloring and used a sponge brush to apply the colors.  Each of these jars took two coatings.


IMG_3982We were inspired by some reading we had been doing about India as well as some lanterns we had seen for sale at Pier 1 (but I refused to buy 🙂 ).  So we painted them in bright jewel tones and used nail polish to create designs.

The final effect is really charming.  It took a few hours from start to finish and we have enjoyed making them our table centerpiece– especially when we are having Indian food for dinner.  Yum!




115I mentioned months ago and weeks ago that we were turning an underused room into a library.  It’s finally done and it’s a lovely space.

I am enchanted with the idea that of a library, reading room and game space up at the top of the house where sounds can barely reach you and one can get lost in a great book. I look forward to the day when I’ll get to hang out and read up there.  In the meantime, I’m pleased to have made the space!

The major goals were 1) to create a space to store all of my favorite work related books; 2) to create a space where the kids could go and browse for a new unusual book to read; 3) a place for the kids (Big Girl especially) to play checkers or chess with a friend; 4) a retreat.

I think we hit all of those goals.  But it took some effort.  For one thing, it’s very small room.  It was a lot of work though to make it truly usable.  The room itself is less than 10′ x 8′ and has three doors and one window.  It used to be a small office, it could be a small kids’ bedroom, but instead we decided to make it a library.  With all those books it could too easily become a storage room instead.

To maximize storage, floor space and airiness, we decided upon a bright glossy wall color, very minimal built in shelves and floor pillows.  First, we had to clean the mess.  The picture below is already a cleaned up version.  The room was full to the brim of stuff! (Anyone else still storing 15 years of bills and receipts?  I know my husband would love to talk with you about all the reasons we needed that paper. )

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Next we picked the color and repaired the damages to the walls.  I used the same brown for the trim that I used in the kitchen a few months ago.  Big Girl and I decided to go for a bright navy blue that we though was kind of like blue velvet wallpaper.  Then we built book shelves by mounting 1″ x 2 ” to the wall, mounting shelves to them, and using posts on the fronts to make secure.

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This was an affordable way to build in almost 100 linear feet of bookshelves.  It took some real work though since our lathe and plaster walls are crumbling and we needed to insert toggle bolts before attaching the 1″ x 2″s.  (Thanks to my dad for this vision, drill bit and manual labor!).

We decided to move flor tiles from the kitchen (before the revision) up to create a rug.

Then the girls and I turned our attention to the floor pillows.  We bought some new fabric for these, but we also used TONS of stuff laying around the house both for the fabric and also for the stuffing.


We used an old dog bed we had bought for a little kid who kept falling our of the bed!  We used old bed pillows in a stack.  We cut open other old pillows and pulled apart their fluff to revive them.  And, we broke up old bits of foam (from an old breast feeding pillow and some other stuff) to create new filling for another pillow.  Little Girl spent several days hand-sewing another pillow for the room too.

All in all, it’s a lovely, sunny spot for reading.  I’ve just started Carol Berg’s _Soul Mirror_ (the second in the Collegia Magica) series.  Maybe I’ll find a chance this weekend to sneak up there for a bit and read.

Our kitchen ceiling fan was supposed to be white but time and dirt had their way.  I splurged on a beautiful stained glass light fixture for above the table so there was nothing left in the budget…  at all.

Hello spray paint!

Borax, hot water and a scrubby sponge made pretty quick work of the grime that had built up on the fan.

fan cleaning1

Next I spray painted the blades a dark brown to simulate wood and match the trim color throughout the room.


painting blades

I decided to spray paint the body of the fan in the same copper paint I used on the radiator cover, cabinet handles and switch plates.


painting the base

The effect is a perfectly coordinated fan that I bet would have cost us $200 bucks to replace.

finished fan close up

finished fan in room

Time to move on the the finishing touches.  These depend heavily on kid art!

Not for my life yet.  I haven’t really gotten started on that… which I must say is oddly liberating.  Maybe all you non-planners out there are on to something?

But, here’s the rest of the plan (with pictures) for the kitchen.

We started with some minor demolition by removing an old air conditioner in the kitchen wall.  When I say we, this was totally my husband’s job.  I could cope with the fact that the thing was seriously gross but I was not going up on the two story ladder in the back of the house.  Luckily he agreed pretty quickly once I promised to do all of the plastering, patching and painting.

airconditioner removal

In addition to painting the walls green and the trim brown, refinishing the table to make it dark brown, the other major project we decided to add on was a backsplash.  I did the backsplash too.  After considering and rejecting several different tiling options, we decided that we wanted to add pressed tin as our backsplash.  Thanks to the miracle of plastic, we were able to add our “pressed tin” backsplash in a lovely copper hue to the area behind the oven, sink and cabinets.  It was very easy to work with this product.  I needed just an exacto, scissors, a sharpie and a ruler.  It looks fabulous too.  So fabulous in fact that it made everything else look lousy.


sink wall

That is where the spray paint comes in.  I really want to both limit the amount of money spent on this project and also avoid much waste by buying everything new.  So, after picking out stain with Big Girl we went to the spray paint aisle.  I’m not sure if spray paint has gone through a profound transformation in the past 10 years or if I was just giddy with the excitement of it being on the shelf instead of in a locked cabinet that required supervision to access but…  I had a great time seeing the very many colors and effects available in spray paint these days.

Big Girl and I had to work hard to try and match the backsplash tile labeled “oil rubbed bronze” that looked copperish with the various options of metallic spray paint out there in the home improvement store.  Eventually we found a “hammered copper” that matches well.  We used that to paint the radiator cover, lightswitch plates and cabinet handles.

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And now we are in business.  All that spray painting saved us lots of money (which helps to cover the cost of those too pricey backsplash tiles!) and gave us a really coordinated look.  Next up check out the super fan refinishing project.