review: Happy Home Outside

Happy Home Outside

Happy Home Outside: Everyday Magic for Outdoor Life by Charlotte Hedeman Gueniau

The focus here is on bringing the comforts of the indoors to the outdoors with a very colorful, cozy aesthetic. The DIY projects mostly reuse found objects and range from quite simple to a bit more involved. A number of recipes are scattered throughout along with ideas for gatherings and parties. I was annoyed to see a tipi and racist terminology in the accompanying text, which pretty much ruined this book for me. Not recommended.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Ann Arbor District Library through the MeLCat ILL system

review: Garden Made

Garden Made

Garden Made: A Year of Seasonal Projects to Beautify Your Garden & Your Life by Stephanie Whitney-Rose

Divided by season, these projects are made using and reusing commonly available items and range from decorated pots and signs to things that are more fully created from start to finish, like seed paper. Stylistically, they fall into either the cottage garden or shabby chic aesthetic. Most of the projects are designed to live in the garden but several winter projects are suited to the indoors, including a variety of terrariums. A list of resources is provided for vendors offering the materials needed for some of the more specific projects.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Marine City Public Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL service

review: HomeMade Modern

HomeMade Modern

HomeMade Modern: Smart DIY Designs for a Stylish Home by Ben Uyeda

The idea behind this book is that anyone can have beautiful, stylish things in their home without spending a lot of money. Uyeda encourages the reader to make things from other things they already own, in fact, further reducing the amount of purchases required and amping up the sustainability at the same time. A guide is provided for collecting raw materials and making purchases when necessary. Thirty projects are detailed for most rooms in a home: living room, dining room, kitchen, home office, and bedroom, as well as the outdoors. Most projects are in the $50-150 range, assuming you already have the required tools on hand. Some of the projects exceed $200, though, and may make the reader question whether it’s worth it to DIY. All of the items featured showcase the bare wood/metal/concrete aesthetic that seems at home in an urban loft.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Kalamazoo Public Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system

review: Forgotten Ways for Modern Days

 photo forgotten ways_zpswywsnbnh.jpeg

Forgotten Ways for Modern Days: Kitchen Cures and Household Lore for a Natural Home and Garden by Rachelle Blondel

This is one of those books that is totally practical but for me personally remains aspirational. I just never seem to find the time to gather the necessary ingredients for these types of projects – I might remember to buy the glycerin and essential oil that I wouldn’t have on hand to make wood wipes, but will I take the time to actually make the wipes before I want to use them? Probably not. This is purely my own lack of effort, though, and I’m sure that many other folks will appreciate the limited ingredient lists required to make most of these items. For cleaning and other chores, I just don’t spend any more time on them than I have to, so preparing in advance is unlikely to actually happen. Recipes are included for cleaning, laundry, kitchen, household, and garden items, as well as those used for health and beauty. The book is lovely to hold and look at and most of the recipes only require half a dozen ingredients, making them pretty reasonable in terms of preparation and cost. The paper it is printed on and the design all lend themselves to a natural feel that jibes with the book’s intent.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Hart Area Public Library using the awesome MeLCat interlibrary loan system

cellar stair

When we were working on the undernook project last weekend, we had to remove one slat of wood on the kitty-corner area to get the paneling off. That whole area is a future project, but for now we just removed the one slat we needed to. We found a treasure underneath!

Aladdin kit home cellar stair note

Our home, being a kit home, was built from pieces shipped to the homeowner via train, and you can see here that this piece was labeled #3794 Cellar Stair. How cool! I also love the flourish of this cursive writing. Such a neat little thing to find!

undernook update

Last weekend we tackled a project we’ve been talking about for ages. It didn’t take very long and it’s so nice to have it done with!

In the basement, adjacent to the laundry area, is the undernook – the little square-ish room underneath the kitchen nook. Someone had paneled this little area off and installed a door at some point in history, but we don’t really need it to be separate and would in fact prefer it to be open to the laundry area.

new house

The pallets on the floor of the laundry room went away ages ago, but we haven’t done much with the area otherwise. Until last weekend!


Ta-da! Now it’s all open and one source of allergens is gone (the wood was damaged at the floor level where it had flooded at some point – nothing like dry rot and other assorted molds/whathaveyou to make me feel gross). As you can see we also have an air system in here which is probably better in a more open area. We now need to clean the walls in here – I’d like to paint them so we have a clean, tidy surface before we put up shelving – as they are pretty gross. Some areas have efflorescence that has been there since before we bought the house, and other areas are water stained or dusty or grimy. Time to do some cleaning! If anyone has done this type of project before, all advice and opinions are welcome!

raised bed DIY

This weekend we put together the raised bed we had purchased materials for. It isn’t a complicated construction project – basically a rectangle involving only one cut.

I opted to purchase a wood decking product rather than actual wood in order to save money. I’d love to go with cedar for everything, but it’s so pricey! Our local Home Despot also didn’t have the size boards I wanted in stock in cedar.

Raised bed

We got some nice corner brackets and grabbed some self-driving screws to go with. In theory, this works great.

Raised bed

In reality, though, this decking material is AWFUL. It didn’t grab the screws at all – it basically just shredded into a pulp instead. GRRR. The screws fell right out as soon as we put them in!

Raised bed

So we grabbed some nails, which worked to attach the corners, but as you can see also caused some small cracks in the decking. This stuff is supposed to be guaranteed to work with any fasteners you’d use with wood, but clearly that is not the case. It will be okay, but it’s definitely not the result I was looking for. I’m glad we only got enough to do one bed this year! I’ll definitely not purchase any of this stuff again.

DIY: magnetic door stop

One of the things about an older home is that not all the doors hang just right. The door to our bedroom, for instance, tends to want to close on its own. We’d rather it stay open most of the time to allow for air circulation and so the dogs don’t get inadvertently trapped in there. We also happened to notice that the rubber stopper-end on the door stop was completely worn away, so it was a perfect time to replace it with a magnetic one.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

What a…lovely paint job on this old door stop!

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

Luckily it was easy to install the wall piece as it goes into the baseboard rather than the plaster wall. We still have not figured out how to deal with drilling into the plaster. We need a plaster mentor!

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

It’s pretty easy – you attach this base plate to the wall and then the door stop itself screws on.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

The magnetic piece on the door works much the same way.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

This door piece also has a spring inside, so it has some give when connecting with the door stop.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

Aesthetically it’s not the most stylish door stop, but it does work quite well. Problem solved in about five minutes!

cleaning the cleaning machine

This weekend I noticed a trickle of water coming from underneath the washing machine. I wasn’t sure if it was from an actual leak or water that I had spilled while cleaning the top inside of the machine (while the water is running, I often try to tidy up the inside of the lid and other surfaces – we got the machine with the house and the machine is definitely not anything close to new, so it has years of ick built up that I’ve been working away at), so I looked up online for information on how to take it apart to check for leaks.

As it turns out, it was really easy. There are a bunch of videos online with instructions for unhooking the cover of Whirlpool washing machines, so we took that off within a matter of minutes.

Washing machine cleaning project

After we had the cover off, omg gross.

Washing machine cleaning project

The entire rim was covered in a disgusting, sticky, pet-hair and grime-filled paste of leftover fabric softener and who knows what else. UGH. We were also able to see the workings of the machine, though, and didn’t see any obvious leaks.

We ran a small load (without anything actually in it) to see if any leaks appeared, and while we waited for it to run its course, we cleaned.

Washing machine cleaning project


There’s still a ton of dirt and whatnot inside the inner and outer lining of the tub, but we weren’t up for taking it completely apart and felt we could live with it. We usually run it on smaller loads, anyway, so it doesn’t get up to the part where it seems to be dirty anyway (it’s a large capacity washer and we don’t often do large capacity loads).

I was pretty unsure of how this project would go before we started, but we managed not to break anything during the process and there weren’t any leaks we could find. Basically I just need not to slosh water around the bleach dispenser area as it doesn’t have a tight seal. I do feel better about having all that gunk removed from the inside.

DIY not?

We have noticed that our front light fixtures were looking pretty worn and when both of the bulbs had burned out we figured it was time to just replace the fixtures while we were at it. Saturday it was THE NICEST outside so it was perfect timing.

Here’s what the old fixtures looked like:
Warm day project: install new light fixtures at Firefly Cottage

They were once painted white, but through weather and wear they were looking pretty silver/grey in a lot of places – the paint had just worn off over time. I also didn’t love the style of these fixtures. The long stem on the bottom is purely decorative and not that appealing to me, and the design was pretty annoying in that you had to unscrew the whole thing to replace the bulb.

Of course when you’re doing DIY on an older home, you never know what you’re going to find when you open things up. The wiring was, of course, super old but still in working condition. We may eventually have all the old wiring in the house replaced but at this point, if it works and is safe, it can wait.

Warm day project: install new light fixtures at Firefly Cottage

K is just the perfect height to work on these! I handed him stuff and held on to screws and such, mostly, while he did the bulk of the work. Much easier than me teetering on a ladder balanced on the front steps, though!

Warm day project: install new light fixtures at Firefly Cottage

There was some pretty major rust happening on the hardware behind one of the fixtures. With a couple trips to Home Depot for different size screws and some well-placed applications of WD-40, we were able to get the old one out and replace it with the new one that came with the new fixture.

Warm day project: install new light fixtures at Firefly Cottage

Here you can see one new fixture, on the right, and one old, on the left. The new ones are a bit small, but for now they will do. They work and the bulbs are easy to replace! I’d like to do some more research to find out what style of fixtures would have been used in 1940 when the house was built. We could see that whatever the original lights were, they left a square shape on the face of the brick, but aside from that, I’m not sure of any details.

Warm day project: install new light fixtures at Firefly Cottage

And here we are with both fixtures replaced. Hooray! The fact that it was between 50 and 60F outside made it really pleasant to work on these, despite the fact that the fixtures we chose are SUPER poorly designed for installation. The glass panels slot in and require you to hold all four of them in place with one hand inside the fixture, while lining that whole piece up to attach it to the top piece. It’s kind of dumb and we certainly wouldn’t buy these fixtures again, but we got them set and it’s done so they’re fine.

Now that mailbox is looking even less decent! I need to do some looking around for a cool mailbox with which to replace it. Seen any neat ones?