Category Archives: DIY

busy busy busy

No time to blog today.

Nope today I must journey into the city and procure ski gear for all the bodies in my house that exploded with growth this year.

(that would be everybody) 

Why need this be done TODAY when the forecast shows absolutely NO SNOW for the next THREE WEEKS?

Because, this way me getting ready for winter wont jinx things.

It’s Murphy’s law. Be prepared for weather and it wont come. You can count on it.

Enter my genius logic:

It can’t possibly snow less than NOT AT ALL right?

(are you reading this mother nature? HA!)

So, today I’ll be busy shopping.

And that is why no blog, because of my kids. And the weather.

It is absolutely NOT because I’ve been occupied for the last month DIYing. Nope not that.

No, it is not because – when faced with an empty house after being away – I decided to shun the furniture store and build everything we’ll sleep, sit, eat, and watch movies on…by myself.

Not true.

However, since I’ve not the time to humor you with words today, I will share with you all the projects that have (not) diverted my brain (hands, feet, shoulders…) as of late.

Slide show please:

Table (in case that isn’t clear):

Table. (Just in case that wasn't clear)

Couch, interrupted. There will be more pillows and another layer of fabric once I decide on colors – an area I’ve NO aptitude for and welcome ALL advice on…

Couch, interrupted. There more pillows and another layer of fabric once I decided on colors - something I'm horrible at and WELCOME all advice on


Bed. Bed frames are rarely photograph worthy (this one isn’t anyway) but I’m very happy with how the legs turned out. Nice?

Bed. Beds are easy and not photograph worthy, but this one has nice legs...don't you think?

As you can see it was all quite doable. I should have had time to blog, even after Saturday rolled around and I felt a need to upgrade the bar.

Old Bar (and help!)


(The real reason Mowgli works in a field that requires frequent travel? To get away from this?)

I’m reasonably sure Mowgli volunteered for a month in Korea the second we finished this project but, it still might just be worth it.

New Bar! 

New bar.

Lovely isn’t it? Especially when experienced from my position. This is primarily my work space you know.

Me Working:

Me working


Anyway, there you have it. My apologies. I promise to be funny soon.

Well, I certainly wont be SKIING. I can tell you that much…

Have a great week!


Crime Scene

Guilty pleasure: that weird thing you shouldn’t like, but do anyway.

Everyone has them and generally they’re harmless. In fact I can think of only two occasions when that isn’t so. First, when your guilty pleasure is an actual crime (and if this is the case – EW, get help) and second when the thing you shamelessly enjoy is also shamelessly enjoyed by the people you love but when the opportunity arises to enjoy it – you hog all of it for yourself.

Which, just a few days ago, is exactly what I did.

We’re a family of mechanics. We like to repair and build and get more joy out of a new tool than a new puppy. But if you think this is perfectly reasonable you’re either similarly afflicted or do not understand what this type passion leads to: 

little project for the weekend

However, there is a particular type of build that rises above all others to become our guilty pleasure: the clean, painless, situation improving, job.

This is the kind of job that requires minimal effort and grime yet makes life infinitely better. Think: installing a garage door opener, changing out old ugly light figures, replacing fuses …tidy, simple, life altering. Get the picture? Well last Thursday, while Mowgli was away, a clean, painless, situation improving job landed in my lap.

The roof bars we ordered for our car arrived.

(FYI if that line didn’t make your heart leap just now then you haven’t a mechanical bone in your body and should probably just schedule a manicure.)

Roof bars. Our car has never had them before. They would open up a world of cargo carrying possibility.

When installed.

Cleanly and simply and life changing-ly installed.

While Mowgli was gone…

because waiting seemed silly…

I mean, I’m here…

Long story short, my marriage has seen better days, but the bars look awesome.

Road trip.






Crawling out of a remodel hole.

Deciding to remodel your home is a bit like choosing to bring a child into the world. There are months of mounting anticipation with good days and bad days that peak in the euphoric elation of a precious new addition to your life.

And there’s labor: the uncertain period of blindingly painful, physically exhausting, struggle to get it done.

For the last two weeks Mowgli and I (and a couple brilliantly talented craftsmen) have been in labor.

Our focus: improving the Kitchen and laundry. The two workhorses of any western home. The two rooms you use the most. Both. At the same time.
(Because we’re stupid.)

Minimalist style, it's purest form
Minimalist style, it’s purest form

It’s been… an experience.

Day one we stripped the kitchen of ALL work surfaces, including the sink. This took the dishwasher out of play for an unspecified number of meals and forced us to make a few adjustments to the dining routine: Paper plates and hand washing in the tiny bar sink.

(Thank GOD we drink or it would have been back-breaking bath tub washes every night).

Moments before the drywaller barked at me "get those out of there!"
Moments before the drywaller barked at me “get those out of there!”

The laundry, on the other hand, was completely gutted.


No wash. No dry.



At first, the disabled lifestyle brought on a fit of nostalgia.
“This is just like when we lived in Russia!” We sang. (Weee!)
A few days later however, the same words came out with a slight kill-me-now growl. “This is just like when we lived in Russia!”

And then, as it is when two people try to care for the demands of an infant with limited resources, our life became a minefield of argument starters.

“Well if you weren’t so cheap, the bar would have had a dishwasher, not just a sink.”

“What do you mean there are only two restaurants in town that will deliver? What kind of backwoods hollow did you bring me to?”

“Clean underwear every day? What are you, royalty?”
(I know, I know, first world problems.)

Luckily, time marches on and projects do end. While we’re not out of the woods yet, the baby is gaining independence rapidly. The dishwasher is back and we expect to re-open the laundry Wednesday (52 hours to go…).

Mowgli and I will survive, I know but… 

I have a question about the kids…

A few days ago the 9 year old switched from chocolate milk in the morning to black tea (coffee was too bitter) and the 12 year old began referring to Mowgli and I by our first names.

But that’s not uncommon right? When a new time sucking member is introduced to a family the older siblings enter a normal phase of coerced adulthood? Don’t they? Should I worry?

This project isn’t over.

Do we  start hiding the car keys? The beer?

Hold that though, I’ve got to run. The baby’s crying…


The vision of a craftsman
The vision of a craftsman














Serger Sewing machine for Sale $150. Wife/mother retiring from slavery

I’ve been a seamstress since Ken invited Barbie to the junior prom (the dress I designed for her was FABULOUS). I love knowing how to sew. Having the skills to carry an idea through to reality is nothing short of awesome. I used to think that one day I would create custom fitted fashion for my family. My eyes twinkled with heirloom dresses to make Bab’s proud.
Then I had my family. Reality snuck in while my back was turned and next thing I knew a decade went by without me making one princess gown.
What have I be making?
Jedi robes and sheaths for wooden swords
All weather riding pants so that someone’s legs stayed warm and dry
Rifle slings, so that same someone was comfortable packing his large firearms through the woods.
I made a sack to hold fake gold for a pirate on the run, and extra large bags to protect the nets of the Rishel family fishing club.
I replaced a thousand zippers and sewed pockets on EVERYTHING.
I upholstered camping foam.
I stitched together a tote to carry fire wood.
I chopped up a lovely piece of silk and sewed it to the backs of stuffed paratroopers so they could launch an attack down the stairs.
Once, I pieced together camo fender covers for the ATV. I even threw in a matching winch shield and a gas can wrap (because the only thing more legendary than a wild animals keen vision is its inability to hear a very loud engine approaching).

I don’t think the gown orders are coming. I’m not sure I want them anymore. I’m tired.
Serger for Sale. $15020140214_094648

Or, make an offer.

You can’t put a price on freedom.






Forget, for a moment, that October isn’t over, Thanksgiving is yet to be thought of, and the holiday tree accessorizing your living room this year is still happily married to the ground.

Now, let’s cut to the chase: What is Santa bringing?

 Yes, I know nothing is more annoying than people who jump the holiday queue but… if you’re like me and plan on at least a partially handmade gifting season you MUST start now. There simply isn’t time otherwise. And, since step one if figuring out what to make, today I’m sharing my top three favorite handmade gift ideas.

1. Sewing projects that do not break the bank. Let’s face it, with the cost of fabric these days, sewing is no longer cheap. Mostly that is. Every once in a while, a good sale comes along and the savvy shopper can get a hefty bolt for a steal. After that, all you need to do is figure out what to make out of 20 yards of outdated, unwanted material.

Relax, I have some ideas. Besides table runners, pillows, and curtains, how about these?

Kid aprons, maybe in a funky print?


Light sabers sold separately.
Jedi Robes from a bathrobe pattern my mother bought in the 70’s! Light sabers sold separately.














2. Felt EVERYTHING. Oh felt, how do I love these? The ways are endless: Finger puppets, masks, costumes, play food, refrigerator magnets, story board, coasters, etc., etc. Felt is inexpensive, forgiving, and durable. You don’t even need to know how to sew. I LOVE felt. If felt would buy me wine, I would let it have its way with me.   

Basic directions: print out a cartoon, trace on felt, cut, glue. Really, it’s that simple.







3. Holiday baking that looks like you spent hours in the kitchen (when you didn’t). Enter no knead bread. You too can turn out a beautiful artisanal loaf with very little effort. The only thing this gift requires is planning. It takes about 20 hours to prepare. (Keep your pants on, more than 16 of those hours pass while your sleeping).

 You can almost smell it.

NY Times No Knead Bread Recipe

Usually we give this with homemade jam, but since we didn’t make any jam this year it’ll be with smoked salmon (Hey neighbors! Surprise!). Oh, and since we smoked the salmon last spring that means, technically, I started thinking about Christmas 8 months early 😉




Watch out Tom Sawyer


When it comes to getting work out of people, Mowgli is the master. That man could cajole the laziest of the lazy into gulag style labor, and get a “thank you” in the end. He’s superhuman, faster than a cracking whip, more powerful than a union boss, able to churn out productive employees with a single e-mail. No one can resists him.

Not even me.

Because he’s sneaky. He makes you believe only YOU can solve a problem, only YOU possess the necessary skills, only YOU can save the day.

It works EVERY time. Which is why last month I removed, repaired and replaced 2 ATV carburetors and have a third waiting for me to get to. All because of that man.

He started small.

Could you pick up overhaul kits for me? I can’t get to the store. You are the best wife. I’m so lucky.

Then upped the ante when his business trip ran over.

If you would just disassemble them. That would keep me from falling hopelessly behind. You are a lifesaver. You know that? My angel.

See how he does that? Desperate pleading followed by flattery? Genius.

Once I’m into the job, thing fall apart rapidly.

You notice what? Hmmm, I don’t know how to fix that. What do you think? Wow, you’re brilliant.  This carburetor is going to be in much better shape than the one I repaired…

Ego sufficiently stroked, I dive in. Dammit if I didn’t do a super job too. 

That’s when Mowgli pounds in the final nail.

Amazing. You have the touch, a gift. You’re like the carburetor whisperer.

Awe, gee. I’m blushing. And then…

I humbly bow to your expertise. It pains me, as a man, to say this but you are the carburetor Queen. I wont mess with them again, I promise. They are all yours.  

(Gush), ah honey, you shouldn’t….hold on, WHAT?! Carburetors are not rocket science. Got five minutes? I’ll teach you everything. I am not queen. I do not, even to the most ignorant, have a “gift.” I overhauled the last one at my desk, still in my bathrobe…

You repaired a carburetor at your desk!? Incredible. You truly are wonder woman.

All right, that’s enough. You win.

Move over Tom Sawyer, there’s a new con man in town.

So, we meet again...
So, we meet again…






Fish canning and the zombie apocalypse.


So you’ve decided to can your own fish.

Congratulations! Canning your own fish is fun and easy! It’s also a great way to extend the usable life of your catch. You worked hard to get that fish, don’t waste it!

(Plus, stores of fish at your disposal will be helpful when the zombie apocalypse hits.)

Let’s get started!

Essential supplies: jars, lids and a pressure cooker.

Buy the largest pressure canner available. We’re canning fish, remember? Canned fish an excellent source of calcium and omega 3’s. So save your pennies for that canner!

(And ammo. Ammo and a well stocked larder will mean the difference between life and death when the zombies come.)

Next: prep fish, pack jars and stack them in canner.

Yes, I am purposely NOT going into detail. Canning fish isn’t rocket science but it must be done cleanly and properly. READ THE MANUAL.

(Do not, and the only ones able to consume your fish will be the zombies. But they’ll be hungry, so maybe that’s not all bad)

Finally: Pressurize canner, start timer. Cook for 100 minutes.

Did you get that? This step is critical. 100 minutes.

That’s: 1 hour 40 minutes AT pressure, not below not above. 100 minutes. If pressure drops below recommended pressure, RESTART YOUR CLOCK.

For the next 100 minutes, do not walk away from the canner. Do not leave the room. Do not involve yourself in any activity engaging enough to take your mind off canning. Do nothing but watch that gauge for the next HOUR and FORTY MINUTES. Do not grab your favorite book, do not watch TV. Don’t call a friend, don’t catch up on e-mail. Don’t even pick up a magazine unless it’s short and dull enough to keep undistracted from the task at hand. For the next 100 minutes, you have one job. MONITOR that PRESSURE. Do not nod off, do not daydream. Do not stare idle out a window. Do not watch snow fall.

100 minutes. Focus. You can do it. Canning is fun.

 (and boring and tedious and life sucking, but look on the bright side you’ll fry your brain. The zombies wont want you.)

Not intended for the undead
Zombie proof















By now everyone heard of Pinterest, right? The web site harmlessly regarded as “idea central”?

Well, don’t be fooled. Pinterest is “dare-you” central, perhaps even “double-dog-dare-you-chicken” central. Yes, it is a plethora of creative ways to tweak your world into a better one. At the same time, however, it is an endless parade of what other people are brave enough to do. Spend five minutes on Pinterest and your inner voice nags… “Why don’t you do that? What are you waiting for? Look at how many people think it’s a fabulous idea.”

Of course it’s also possible that only happens to me and I’m in dire need of a Pin-tervention. You decide.

This week I re-stained my kitchen cabinets. Black with an incredibly expensive stain that some woman on Pinterest said she used on her cabinets that not only improved the looks of her home but made her more popular, added volume and sheen to her hair and removed her love handles. How could I not try it?

(It’s amazing what little regard I have for resale value.)

Then, I painted my KitchenAid. It was boring white because once upon at time that was on the only color they came in and I was tired of it. Now they come in silver, red and black right out of the box. On Pinterest the really cool people have ones with flames and flowers andDisney characters!

Is it wrong to want a full life?

This project is terrifying only because it requires you to do this to a $400 stand mixer:

Nobody panic, I was a mechanic in a previous life.

But it’s looking good so far!

I’ll get the mixer part back on


And finally, this week I unsuccessfully attempted to blow up my slow cooker.

I am one of the pathetic members of the population struggling to feed her family with only 1 oven. (Mowgli, are you reading this?) With the holidays looming this inconvenience threatens to transform my existence into culinary chaos.

Enter Pinterest spreading the rumor that it’s possible to bake yeast bread not in an oven, but in a slow cooker.

Never mind that most slow cookers advise to never, ever, never, under penalty of violent death, turn one on without first adding liquid. Never mind that the only food dryer to bake than yeast bread is crackers. Never mind that there are children in my house, watching me… People had tried this recipe and, therefore, so must I.

Happily, not only did this work, no limbs were lost.


You only live once you know.


Besides all this, Pinterest reminded me today that November is NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month, that crazy time of year when writers around the country trade grounded reality for the chance to pen an entire novel inside 30 days.

Why not? It’ll be hours before all that paint is dry.

Besides, everybody swears it’s awesome.



I am Spock


In 1975, Leonard Nimoy (AKA Mr. Spock for the non-Trek fan), attempting to distance himself from the role that would ultimately define him, spelled out exactly what was what in his book:

“I am not Spock”.

The original Star Trek series ran only 79, low rating, episodes yet its legacy became legendary. Mr. Nimoy, understandably, feared permanent type casting by a role he played for only 3 years. He only did what he felt necessary.

It didn’t work.

Twenty years and, no doubt, millions of fan letters later he wrote another book. Title?

“I am Spock.”

Leonard, I feel your pain. While I may not, not be an emotionless alien genius, I defiantly am not a mechanic. I didn’t write a book about it, but I have blogged on the matter. And though I’m not struggling against the entire Star Trek fan base, I am up against Mowgli and my sons. And they’re a sneaky bunch.  

Case in point: this is what my garage looks like right now.

She has great bone structure…

Two weeks ago a truck load of ATV parts landed in our yard (don’t ask how). Along with that carnage came a promise to my son that soon the rubble would become a functioning 4 wheeler just for him.







Yeah…that’ll  happen.

Through the week that followed I watched a hopeful boy watch his talented father bury himself in a quagmire of metal and grease. Dinner’s came later, patience grew thinner and, instead of English, Mowgli began speaking in part numbers.

Honestly, if it was your family? What would you do?

I joined the fight. I hated it but I could suck it up for a while. It wasn’t forever.

Then, one evening, everything changed.

It was late and looked like chips and dip would once again be the only meal I’d have time to throw together when my son, my 9-year-old sweet baby, appeared.

“Mom,” He said, shiny with anticipation and not the least disgusted by my black fingers and busted knuckles “Don’t worry, I’ll make dinner tonight. That way, you can keep working on the 4 wheeler.”  

Melt me into a puddle of proud motherhood.

I guess I am Spock.

Can you blame me?


That Crafty Gene.


I love crafts. Always have. And I’m good at them. I was born with the crafty gene. You know, the gene that lets me easily transform an old curtain into a ball gown but at the same time overrides my ability to solve for X or explain why it’s wrong to end a sentence with at.

(Dear freshman English teacher; See how I slipped that in? I’m winning.)

I couldn’t tell you who was president when I was eleven without some serious math work but I can remember every single craft project I was ever assigned. Including the time a misguided Sunday school teacher showed me how to make maracas out of paper mached light bulbs smashed against a table.

(The kid in me still thinks this project was all kinds of AWESOME. Fortunately the adult in me knows it was also the type of activity likely to get one restricted from interacting with children.)



Enter Cinco de Mayo and my search for a Mexican heritage project NOT involving alcohol and voila (aqui?), it was piñata time! I went old school too: paper mache construction, tissue paper flair. EEEEE! What could be more fun?

Bowl of F.U.N.!

So I chopped up newspaper, mixed up a batch of flour paste and excitedly showed my three sons how to turn a balloon into a party.

Their enthusiasm left me wanting. Slugs. They watched me like concerned slugs.

After much cajoling, son one agreed to give it a try. He dipped and placed a single strip across our balloon then immediately marched off to wash his hands.

Son two, while carefully maintaining an eager and interested expression, informed me that he could not, at that moment, participate. He was occupied eating lunch, but as soon as he was done…He then proceeded to chew at a snail’s pace thus ensuring I would finish before he did.

Son three, who is about as subtle as punk rock, winced and dramatically choked back vomit. Covering his eye and ears and plugging his nose, he declared my creation “disgusting” and walked away.


What was this? Paper mache was gross? Apparently, the same children who inspired Mowgli and I to speak phrases like “don’t lick earthworms”, and “boogers are not food” were craft sissies! Was is possible they were crafty-capped? Craft-challenged? Not-craftly-abled? Say it aint so!

Decorating the piñata wasn’t much better. Son’s 2 and 3 managed to glue on a handful of tissue paper plumes before bailing. Son 1, permanently scarred by flour and paper mush, kept his fingers guarded. It will be years before he trusts me again.

Alas, had I failed? Did I not pass on my crafty gene? Will my children forevermore live the bland existence of innate proper English and arithmetic agility?


Saturday we killed the piñata and gorged on candy. At least we have that memory.

Nothing screams party like eating candy you find on the ground.