Make a Glass Flower Garden

Flower Garden Decor
One of my favorite ways to spend a day is combing through thrift stores and junky old antique shops. Around here, because I live in a touristy area, there are lots of stores featuring random collections of cool stuff, combined in new and interesting ways. Lots of vintage tractor seats turned into stools, old doors turned into potting tables, barn wood turned into wall art. In one of those stores I saw a bunch of glass plates mounted together to look like a flower. That version was really simple and made to hang on a wall, but as soon as I saw it I knew I could do a version that would stay in the garden and keep things looking beautiful even when the real flowers weren’t blooming.

Step 1
First you’ll need a collection of glass plates. The more variety you have in colors, sizes, and shapes, the more amazing these flowers will look. To attach them together and to the stem we’ll need a screw right through the center. Drilling through glass might seem intimidating, but it’s just a matter of having the right tools for the job. I get real specific about that in my birdfeeder post, but really you just need a drill bit made to drill through glass, a tub of water to keep things cool, and a towel in the tub to keep things from moving around and to absorb the drill once you make it to the other side of the plate.

Step 2
Aim for the center, but it’s really not crucial that your aim is true. The center of your flower will be a drawer pull, so make sure you use a drill bit the same size as the screw that fits that.

Step 3
Depending on the thickness and number of your plates, you might need to buy a longer screw. You’ll need the screw to be long enough to go through each plate, plus the pipe, and have enough left over to screw into the drawer pull that will be the center of your flower. Stack your plates up on top of that screw and use silicone caulk to glue the plates together. Don’t glue the screw, you’ll need to take that back out so you can attach your pipe, but using it at this stage means all your holes will line up the way they’re supposed to. The silicone caulk will glue the plates together but also provide a little cushion so you can’t overtighten the screw and break anything, but they also won’t rattle around every time the wind blows.

Step 4
Cut your copper pipe the length you want for your flowers to stand up, plus enough to bury in the ground. Drill a hole all the way through the pipe a few inches from the top.

Step 5
Cap your pipes so they look finished and pretty.

Step 6
Now you can insert the screw for real. Thread it through the pipe and through your stack of glued plates, then screw the drawer pull onto the front and tighten until it’s secure. Use a mallet to pound your flower into the ground, making sure to hit the pipe and not the plate.

Step 7

Step 8

Yard Flowers

I love the sparkle and color these add to my yard. And as we’re still recovering from a drought, it’s great to have a way to add a little beauty to my yard that doesn’t require any water. I might have to let my yard die for the sake of the environment, but these flowers will still stand tall and beautiful.


Kitchen Chalkboard for Hungry Kids

Hungry Chalkboard
Summer vacation has started and I’m already losing my mind. Atti is so much more active and attentive than he was this time last year and for the first time in my parenting life I’m understanding all the lamentations of my mom friends during summer vacation. He is constantly asking for entertainment! He’s up in my grill all day long! He wants to be fed three times a day!

The attention I’m trying to relish. I feel the clock ticking on that one big time and I’m trying to soak it up while it lasts. The food, however, I came up with a solution for.

Step 1
This is really just a chalkboard project, so if you find one already made, you can skip ahead. But I got this metal frame at Michael’s and I loved that with a little spray paint it would be a magnetic chalkboard.

Step 2
Spray paint as necessary, making sure to get an even application, even if you have to be patient and use lighter coats to do it.

Step 3
Paint the frame to look great in  your kitchen.

Step 4
I used a vinyl cutter to make myself a little decal, but you could replicate this in paint if you don’t have one handy.

The hardest part of the whole project was hanging this on the fridge. The metal made it wicked heavy and a whole bunch of strategies wound up with this crashing to the floor. I finally ended up ordering a million little magnets and gluing them all around the back.

Chalk pens
The inspiration for this project began months ago when the folks at ChalkOla offered to give me a couple packs of their chalk markers. Believe it or not, I didn’t have a single chalkboard in the house to try them out on. The anti-trendster in me is powerful. I’ve also never made anything with a chevron print and my mason jars are exclusively for canning. I’m stubborn that way.

I loved the colors and variety of sizes they offered, and the pens work great. I realized after using them the first time that chalk pens are notoriously hard to erase from a chalkboard, but I followed the instructions on the back to use windex and then made sure to condition the chalkboard well with a dusting of chalk dust, and I haven’t had a problem since. And you cannot beat the staying power without making it permanent.

Label Canisters
They also sent me some of their chalkboard labels which came in super handy since I just reorganized my pantry. The chalkboard labels don’t even need the same degree of conditioning, they were just super easy to use.

hungry list
If you have kids that can fend for themselves, a list saves you from having to answer what there is to eat 20 times a day. In my case it helps answer the “what am I going to feed this kid this time” question. And makes sure that the fresh snacks I buy don’t rot in the bottom of the fridge because I forgot to eat them in time.

There’s one little angsty summer problem resolved. Now I just need to deal with the neverending boredom and heat. I can do this.


Upcycle Old Dishes Into A Backyard Birdfeeder

I’m going to be bringing you a ton of outdoor tutorials in the next few weeks. I’ve been completely obsessed with my backyard and I’ve got a million things I want to do with it. For today I thought I’d start with a simple one that will also lay the groundwork for what’s to come. I’m going to be drilling through EVERYTHING. Plates, bowls, votive holders, you name it. If it’s glass or ceramic, I will be putting a hole in it so that I can build something cool. And I’ll start by bringing the birds and squirrels to right outside my door.

Step 1
Drilling through tile, glass, or ceramic is not hard in the slightest. You just need to know the trick. Start with a tub of cool water. The water will keep things cool and lubricated so your plate won’t crack. It reduces the friction caused by all that fine dust and a drill bit. Lay an old towel or something in the tub to keep your plate stable. You don’t want anything wiggling on you.

Step 2
Drill slowly and with even pressure, using a drill bit designated for tile, glass, or ceramics. There’s a ton on the market, but the one I liked best came to a nice point which made the even pressure and not wiggling way easier. Make sure that your plate is supported while drilling, which in my case meant I had to tip it down to be surrounded by the towel.

Step 3
Drill slowly until you punch through the other side. Slow is the key here. If you try to rush things, you’ll break it. Patience. Drill two more holes evenly spaced around the rim of the plate. Make sure that you drill your hole a good 1/2 inch inside the rim so that your hole is extra stable and won’t chip open.

Step 4
Now you need to connect your two plates and hang them up. We’re going to do that with three chains on each level, but first we need a way to keep the chains in place. So I pulled out my jewelry stuff and made a couple of eyeloops. Cut a piece of wire about 2 inches long. This wire actually came from the fencing section of the hardware store, so it will face the elements well. With your pliers just bend the end around to make a loop. For the bottom plate, thread the wire up through the bottom of the hole so that one eyeloop is supporting the bottom of the plate. Thread a 12″ chain onto the wire, and finish the other end with another eyeloop.

Step 5
On the top plate, you’ll have to connect two pieces of chain. With another 2 inch piece of wire, make a loop and attach an 8 inch length of chain. Thread the wire through the hole from the top and bend the end around to make another eyeloop.

Step 6
Join the chain from the bottom plate onto that wire, and squeeze your loop closed tight.

Step 7
Take all three chains hanging the top plate and thread them onto a keyring. Then your birdfeeder is ready to be hung.

Step 8
The birds and squirrels have been having full time parties in our backyard ever since I hung this up, and the cats are pissed. Which is even more fun. Now I get to sit at my desk watching the birds flutter, and then laugh and laugh as I watch the cats fume.


DIY Outdoor Coffeetable

In my last post I showed you my great big sectional process, and quickly realized that a sectional is not a sectional without an ottoman or coffeetable in front of it. You cannot lounge and worry where to put your drink. So today we conquer making the matching coffeetable. The sectional wasn’t exactly complicated, just big, and in comparison this project is one you could put together with your eyes closed.

Step 1
I’m taking a little bit of a short cut here since I’m using all the same materials, the assembly is done in the same pilot hole/wood screw way, and is still dependent on the measurements of your cushions that determined the size of your sectional. You don’t want a giant coffeetable and an itty bitty sectional, so you have to keep them proportional. If you have any questions about those items, refer to the sectional post.

Cut your 2 x 3’s to size. For this project you’ll need 4 pieces 36″ long, 6 pieces 30″ long, and 4 pieces 18″ long.

You’ll need to build two box shapes, each with a center support, that will become the top and shelf of your table.  Just sandwich three of the 30″ pieces between two of the 36″ pieces and screw it all together. And do it again for the other five pieces.

Step 2
Your four 18″ pieces are your legs. For this part it’s best if you break out the level. You want to make sure you don’t install the shelf lopsided. Line one of your boxes up flush with the legs by laying it all on the ground, screwing the pieces together, and then flipping it over. To install the bottom shelf it works great to lay it all on it’s side. Make sure that you leave a few inches of leg below the box so that nothing’s resting on the ground.

Step 3
For the top and shelves you’ll switch to the 1 x 3 furring strips just like we did for the sectional. You’ll need to cut 14 pieces 33″ long for the top, lay them out the way you want, and screw them into place.

Step 4
Then cut 10 pieces 19″ long for the shelves, offsetting them so there are five pieces on each side of that center support beam, creating two shelves. Screw down.

Step 5
Then it’s the regular old sand prime paint procedure.

Finished CoffeetableThe shelf design was a bit of an accident. I planned on making the bottom shelf solid just like the top, but I forgot I’d have to cut around those legs and that sounded like a whole lot of no fun. So I changed the design and I think it looks so much cooler! Happy Accidents are totally what makes it worth it.



Build a DIY Outdoor Sectional

Outdoor Sectional

So, I know it’s Fall now and everybody has moved on to pinning Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving tablescapes, but I just can’t let this project sit on my hard drive until next summer. It’s already been finished for months and months but between surgeries and fertility and recovery and the hellishness of the last year it never got the attention I wanted to give it. So I am going to stop waiting for perfection and just send it out into the world. Nobody reads things in order anymore anyway.

When we moved into this house I knew my backyard furniture wasn’t going to cut it. But outdoor furniture is EXPENSIVE!! Like, ridiculously expensive when most of it is plastic garbage anyway. But in this corner up against the house we had this huge paved area that was just begging for an outdoor sectional. I looked and I looked and when I could even find one it was over $10,000. Which is insanity. You can get a car for that much money!

I finally realized that the only way I was going to get the outdoor seating area living in my dreams was if I built it my own dang self. So I did.

Step 1

Everything starts with the cushions. I bought mine a couple summers ago now at end of season prices, which is so so so much cheaper than trying to make anything yourself. Cushions for patio furniture do not come in standard sizes, so you absolutely must have your cushions before you start sawing wood. You’ll need to base all of your measurements around the ones you plan on using if you expect anything to fit. Mine were 21″ square, which is what all the measurements I’m about to give you will reference, so if you end up with cushions that are not 21″ square, remember to change the math! I also used 2 x 3’s to make it look a little less like studs, to cut some of the heaviness out where I could, and to save myself some cash. Remember as you’re changing the math to always account for the width of the wood pieces you’re assembling. A finished 21″ wide is actually an 18″ piece sandwiched between two 2 x 3’s.

Step 2

Despite the size of the project, it really only consists of a few parts and is really manageable, even with my rudimentary building skills. The first thing to build is the frame. I made mine to be a corner sectional with a chaise lounge on one side. With your 2 x 3’s cut to the proper sizes, then it’s just drilling through the pieces to make a pilot hole, and following it up with a wood screw to secure it. With something this big and heavy, I like to use two wood screws in each joint.

Step 2 right

Right side cut measurements. Not pictured: another 18″ long piece I attached across the middle to offer some more support.

Step 2 center

Center cut measurements. Not pictured: Another 18″ crosspiece I added after I got a little further in the building process and realized I wanted it more stable.

Step 2 left

Left cut measurements.

But Tresa? I can hear you asking, Why aren’t the sides of your rectangle the same size? Good question. It’s because of how those joints need to line up for assembly. The exterior sides are longer because they don’t have to account for the width of the wood it’s joining up with. So you see in the back how the top side meets the back on the outside, while the bottom side butts up against the back? I needed to do that to get the sectional as long as I wanted it to be. If you’re changing the dimensions on this, don’t forget the width of the other piece next to it! I can’t emphasize that part enough, it’s so easy to forget you have a whole other 2 x 3 to make room for.


Step 2 detail

To make your sectional as long as mine, you could use a metal brace of some kind, but I designed it so that the sides of the sectional would seam that back together. Which is also why that back piece is 1/2″ longer than its mate across from it. It needs to overlap a bit to be able to screw into the 2 x 3 it crosses.

Step 3

With your frame built, now you’ll need legs. You need three of these little boxes. Two to go under the joints where the sides meet the back, and one to hold up the end of the chaise.

Step 4

And then you’ll need 6 of these d-shapes which are legs with back support. Cut an extra 38″ piece to create your corner piece.

Step 5

Lift the frame up onto the legs and attach with screws. In this picture you can see the crosspiece I added to make the frame stronger, the little box directly under the joint, and the corner piece. This is just one of your six d-shaped legs, but you add that second back piece onto the outer side of it to make that corner. You gotta have something for your back pieces to screw into.

Step 6

Now we just have to add the seat and back. I switched to 1 x 3 furring strips here. I cut 58 pieces 21″ long for the seat and installed those by screwing them directly into the frame. I didn’t bother measuring how much space was between each piece, I just eyeballed it to make sure that the pieces weren’t touching on one end and far enough to fall through on the other.

Step 7

The six back pieces on the right side are 84″ long, but on the long center section I wasn’t going to be able to make it all the way across with one piece, so I had to measure how long the pieces had to be to reach the leg they needed to screw into. You’re going to have to measure your own based on where that leg ends up, but in my case I cut 6 pieces to be 87″ long and 6 pieces to be 37″ long and attached them with screws into each leg’s back.

Finished Outdoor Sectional

After that everything needed a good sanding, priming, and a painting, and then I put all those cushions where they were destined to be. Of course, I also realized in a hurry that I can’t have an outdoor seating area with no place to put a cold drink, so I had to come up with a matching coffeetable. Instructions for that will be coming tomorrow.


Farmer Atticus

Tomato Picking

Since losing my little dreamhouse on Courage Street back in 2010, we’ve been renters. In the last five years we’ve lived in three houses that were pretty great, all things considered. And because we’ve had such good luck I haven’t been in a rush to re-enter the market. Plus, to be honest, I wasn’t ready to love again. I am such a home body – like, a literal agoraphobe – and a home is such an important symbol to me of the roots I long to put down and the safe place I long to create, that losing my first home of my own left a mark on me. (And of course there was the whole destroyed credit and no down payment thing that comes with having a foreclosure on your record. Curse you financial meltdown!!)

Our current house is just ridiculously gorgeous and great for us. We have amazing neighbors, Atti can use his wheelchair to get anywhere in the house, and this backyard. I mean. But it’s not ours. And I’m feeling those hunger pains again.

We went looking at a property last week and it was PERFECT. I can’t stop thinking about it. But they were asking A LOT because there were three houses on the parcel, and yet they were all trailers. To do what we’d want to do we’d have to tear everything down and build again, which would be great, except for the land being way too expensive for that to make any sense. But this land. I dream about it. Views of the mountains on one side, the valley on the other. Acres of rolling hills only ten minutes from Bear’s work. If only.

It might take us a whole other year to really get what we want because as God is my witness I’m never moving again. Bear keeps wanting to play conservative because he doesn’t want to be house poor again, I keep saying I don’t care if we’re house poor for a few years if it means that I never have to pack another box in my life. And I have my heart set on lots and lots of land. In part because I have big plans for a group home for gay kids who can work the farm to prepare for their future and save for college, but also just for Atticus. This kid is an outdoor kid.

When you spend your whole childhood in physical and occupational therapy, you get what they call “therapized.” He’s so used to being bossed around, picked up and lifted into position, told to do simple tasks that have no context, and eventually he’s gotten rebellious. At therapy he pretends he can’t stand or take steps, but at home, if there is a box of Cheerios on the counter out of his reach, he can suddenly master his body in ways I can hardly believe. It’s a constant battle to provide a reward or context that makes enough sense to him to keep doing the work it takes to move his body. And these days, it’s really hard to teach a kid to work.

But! If we had a farm! For a kid who loves playing outside so much every piece of clothing that goes on his lower body is ripped up from dragging against the concrete, whose back is as bronzed as the face of a cowboy but with a belly as pale as a lizard’s, who has callouses on his knees and his toes from the unique way he travels, on a farm, he would work.

Last night I told him that I would take him outside to pick tomatoes with me and we could send them to school for his teachers. He got so excited he jumped on my belly and giggled and refused to go to sleep. First thing this morning I got him dressed in his outside clothes as we sang about Little Atticus had a Farm and all the animals he would have and the tomatoes he would grow with a pick pick here and a pick pick there. We went to my little backyard patch and Atti – who you have to bribe to eat anything not carb based – ate every tomato that hit the bottom of the bowl. And then got entranced by “the little green ones” and picked tomatoes until he counted to 100.

He told me that the first animal he wants to get is a goat. And then a chicken so he can eat the eggs for breakfast. I want to get him a donkey he can ride around or pull him in a wagon. If we had a little donkey, he could take it hiking. Seeing how the world could open up for him in these old fashioned ways, I get teary eyed just thinking about it.

So for now we’ll have to make do with little tomatoes and wrangling cats. Because I am not settling for another house. When I move again, it will be for our Dreamfarm.


Reupholster a Kid’s Chair

Reupholster a kids chair

Reupholster a kids chair

Atti has had a fabulous but hideous chair in his room for the last few years and literally every time I go in there I twitch, looking at that cover. It’s faded and stained, and totally not hygienic. But the chair was just too perfect for Atti’s needs. It was just the right size for him, is easy for him to get in and out of, easy for him to sit in, and has sentimental value because it was given to us by one of Atti’s former therapists. Even if the chair was just like any other chair, I couldn’t bear to get rid of our reminder of Miss Margie. I had to rescue it from the crust of cheerio dust that had overcome it.

Click through for a full tutorial, including a coupon for a steal on fabric! [Read more…]


Great Ideas: Toilet Paper Holder

Toilet Paper Storage Solution
When I was a young teen I was visiting a friends house and was in the middle of using the restroom when I discovered there was no toilet paper. I had to shout across her house, her older brothers laughing at my predicament. The awkwardness that is the teen years coupled with that moment of embarrassment has seared the experience into my brain and made it so that I want my guests to never find themselves in similar trouble. But unless you happen to have a cabinet right next to the toilet, the storage solutions kind of suck. Baskets get wet, kids and pets make messes, and I have not managed to crochet a toilet roll cover that is retro cute and not just ugly.

This is a tall vase I found at TJ Maxx, and while toilet rolls will never be pretty, this vase manages to offer a skosh of elegance to a very inelegant object. The glass keeps it off the floor and away from any wetness, and tucked in behind the toilet it can even blend in until the moment it becomes necessary.

With unlimited money I’d have a cabinet installed. But $19.99 is a pretty great price to prevent lifelong embarrassment.


Crocheted Pillow Sham Tutorial

Crocheted Pillow Shams

My guest room is functional, but kind of sad looking right now. There’s not much going on in the way of decor, but I know where I want to go with it. Despite my super modern taste everywhere else, my guest room I want to look like visiting grandma’s house. I want it to be cozy and maternal and feel like you’re going back to childhood memories that aren’t even your own. So since there’s already a handmade quilt on the bed, the next thing to address was pillows.

Pillow shams make such a huge difference on a bed. I’m not a big fan of tons of excess non-functional pillows, but shams make the bed look inviting and have the added benefit of covering up your drool covered smashed down pillow you actually sleep on.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 1
This is the easiest possible sewing project. No zippers or buttons to worry about, just an envelope closure. To really get the grandma look I used a vintage sheet (doubled for thickness) and cut three pieces. You need a front as big as your pillow, and then two back pieces each half the width of your pillow, plus about three inches. Add 1/2″ of seam allowance on each side. For the pillow I was using, the front measured 27″ long and 21″ wide, and the back pieces each measured 16″ long and 21″ wide. Hem one side of each back piece by folding it 1/4″ over twice and sewing down. Make sure that the side you hem will be the side that faces the middle.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 2
Line the ends of the back pieces up with the front piece, letting the back pieces overlap each other in the middle. Pin in place and sew all the way around. If you’re using an easily frayed fabric like I am, it’s a good idea to zig zag or overlock stitch the edges.
Cut the corners off diagonally. This will make it so that you’ll get a sharper corner when you turn it inside out.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 4
Once you’ve turned the sham right side out, you’ll need to add a row of stitches to add your crochet to. I did this with my sewing machine set to the blanket stitch, but you can also do it by hand.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 5
For the crochet:
Row 1: single crochet (sc) evenly spaced around the sham in multiples of six. Just stick your hook right through that hole the blanket stitch Unless you have precision sewing skills you’ll need to use a little flexibility in where you place your stitches. Don’t stress about it too much, just work enough stitches so that the fabric can lay flat and do your best to get to a multiple of six. You can always fudge that part if you need to.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 6
Row 2: Chain six. Skip 2, single crochet. *Chain 4, skip two, sc* Repeat around the entire sham except for when you get to each corner. There you’ll want to chain six to give yourself enough room to round the bend. Close with a slip stitch.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 7
Row 3: *Chain 4, sc in chain 4 loop.* Repeat around the whole sham except for those corner pieces again. In each corner you’ll sc, chain 4, sc, chain 4, and then sc in the next loop. So each corner loop gets two of our pattern.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 8
Row 4: Chain 4, sc in chain 4 loop, chain 4. *In next chain 4 loop, 2 Double crochet, chain 1, 2 Double crochet, chain 4. sc in next chain 4 loop, chain 4.* Repeat. Close with a slip stitch and weave in ends.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial
What a difference a couple of pillows make. This room still needs a lot of work, but it’s actually starting to look intentional now. Once I get some lamps in here and something hung up on the walls, I think this room might compete for where I usually sleep.


DIY Dollar Store Hanging Baskets

DIY Hanging Baskets

DIY Hanging Baskets

These hanging baskets can’t get cheaper and add a gorgeous pop of color to your front porch.

Hanging Basket Tutorial
Today I’m sneaking in one last summer project before I turn my attention to the changing seasons. This move has changed everything about how our family lives. We’re actually turning into outdoor kids. You guys, I have a tiny tan on my arms!

This house was SCREAMING for baskets full of plants to hang from the eaves. I could hear it begging every time I pulled in the driveway. But I have a whole lot of projects going at once, and I need a LOT of hanging baskets to get the look I wanted, and even with my sale mojo the cheapest price I could find was $15 a piece. The house might have wanted hanging baskets urgently, but I cared more about something to sit on outside.

So I did what every good crafter does. I hit the dollar store. For about $1.50 I got what I needed to make these baskets, and saved myself a freaking fortune. All you’ll need is something solid and somewhat stable, with handles on the sides. Just about anything will do. Before I found these I was going to buy a plastic punch bowl and just drill a bunch of holes.

Hanging Basket Tutorial Step 1
The first thing you’ll need to do is make a drainage hole where there probably isn’t one. I am so haphazard with my plant care I’m always either drowning them or starving them, and I have killed more than one plant (this year) by over watering without proper drainage. So learn from me, it’s not a step worth ignoring. Plastic is one of the easiest things to drill through, and I did this with just a regular old paddle bit.

Hanging Basket Tutorial Step 2

Cut two lengths of rope about six feet long, or as long as you need to get the height you want your baskets to hang from. Cross them in the middle, and then thread each end from the outside of the basket, through the handle to the inside of the basket. Stretch the ropes apart to give it a stronger base.

Hanging Basket Tutorial Step 3

Tie the two ends on each side of the basket together, and use the knot to hang from a hook. The end.

Dollar Store Hanging Baskets

For the last three months nearly all I’ve thought about is bringing our family life outdoors, and the projects I’ve been spending my time on reflect that. There’s still so much I want to do out there, but the seasons march on whether I’m ready for them or not. All the outdoor furniture living in my head will have to get to the back of the line. I’ve got Halloween to start thinking about.