Friday, October 29, 2010

The Anaconda Sofa

Ah, free sofas!  Let me tell you a few things about free sofas, because I am, as you might expect, an expert! 

Sofas are the easiest thing to find free!  They are the one item most often put on the curb.  Because of their bulk, people tend not to want to move them or haul them off. 

No one should ever have to pay for a sofa unless they want to!  You may have to pay for a slipcover to get just the color you want (I find slip covers at the thrift stores all the time for $8-$15, just so you know!), but with patience, you can eventually find one that's good just as it is! I'm currently waiting patiently for a good sofa (or two!) for the Taylor living room!  Something will come along and I'll show you when it does!

Here's my best sofa trick:  if you find a good sofa on the curb (so good that you just know it will be snatched up immediately!) and you lack a truck at the moment -- take the cushions!  No one wants a sofa without cushions!  If you have the cushions in your possession, you've bought yourself a little bit of time in which to come back for the body. 

My second best sofa trick is this:  leave it out in the rain and then in the sun for a few days (but not so many that it starts to fade!) and it will be quite well deodorized!  For more serious cleaning, take it to the car wash and power wash it and then let it sun dry!  Really! 

I had a tan microsuede loveseat that I was about to take to the dump (and I had bought it new and paid $400 for it so you KNOW it must have been bad for me to be willing to toss it!).  As an experiment, I took it to the car wash on the way to the dump.  It came so clean that I now use it for staging!  It looks like new! Just be sure to let them dry completely in the sunlight! You can also take off any zippered cushion covers and machine wash them while you power wash the body (if needed).

The common assumption that free sofas are ugly is a myth!  Let me illustrate!

THIS is a FREE sofa!  Sage velvet.  Sells for $1500-$3000+ at places like Pottery Barn!

And THIS sofa, that looks very much like an anaconda from a distance, is NOT FREE!  My apologies (and sympathies) to any of you who grew up with a sofa that looked like this one!  If you have one currently, we need to have a very serious talk followed, possibly, by an intervention!

Here's a shot of the price tag to prove it!  Would YOU pay $89.95 for an anaconda sofa?

Even putting a beautiful man on an ugly sofa does not redeem this sofa from eternal ugliness!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Bathroom

"After" pictures prove much more effective if they are preceeded by "before" pictures, don't you think? 

That said, here are before pictures of the bathroom at 419 S. Taylor.  In actuality, they are "after" pictures of the remodel a previous resident did on the bathroom.  They actually did a pretty good job.  It's sleek and clean and functional.  But it's been stripped of any vintage charm it might once have had.  They even covered over the window which is both a sin and a crime in my book!  I've decided to give them the benefit of the doubt about the remodel (but not about the window!) and to presume that it was a disaster not worth saving. 

Ooh!  Shelves!  I LOVE shelves!  So much potenial for stashing fun stuff!
I don't think the dog liked being locked in the bathroom!  What do you think?

This last picture is a a tease of an after picture -- all totally free items" sheet shower curtain, shower rod, shower curtain rings, toilet paper basket, oil painting on the wall. I am particularly pleased with the oil painting. It's an abstract nude in neutral tones that is actually quite good -- and it came from a dumpster WITH a companion painting that hangs on the opposite wall! The only problem is my mother-in-law can never use our bathroom because of them! She might keel over!

My apologies in general for the tease -- I'll have to take the rest of the "after" pictures the next time I'm in Enid!  Hopefully you'll find it worth the wait in the end!
And one more thing:  there's a miracle that occurs regularly in this bathroom.  Even when we don't have the water turned on, enough water bubbles up in the toilet that it is fully functional!  God works even through toilets sometimes!  He has blessed up with plumbing! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Saga of Verna Oller: I Get It -- It's a Game!

Recently, I found myself transfixed by a news story about a little old lady named Verna Oller.  Miss Verna died last May at the age of 98.  Much to the dismay of everyone who had thought of her only as an old lady on a meager fixed income, she left more than memories.  She left 4.5 million dollars!

Below is a link where you can read the whole story about Verna Oller.  I won't attempt to recreate it.  But I do want to use the opportunity to discuss misers.

The thing that fascinated me most about Verna Oller (and maybe my own proclivity is showing here!) was that she used a broken jacket zipper as a shoelace in her thrift store work boots.  Most people would think of this as proof of psychopathology.  I, on the other hand, was jealous of the incredible depth of  resourcefulness!  And I actually think it looks kind of grunge-trendy!  Maybe Miss Verna could have been something of a trendsetter among young counter-culture rebels?  See the link below to view her boot!

Before you diagnose and dismiss me, let me explain:  I can appreciate a nice new pair of shoe laces.   Really, I can.  But I also "get it".  I think I understand the inner workings of a miser's brain!  First, they're just simply practical.  Terminally practical.  They don't see the need for frills because they've had to do without and know they CAN.  There is peace in knowing how little one really needs.  Secondly, maybe not at first and maybe not ever for the most fear-motivated misers, but, for many of them, eventually, it's a game!  When someone with a miser's mindset spends absolutely as little money as possible, they "win" in their sparing match with "the system" or with their feelings about financial security or with their pride in their creativity and resourcefulness.  I get it. 

Some of my most satisfying projects and victories have come out of this scenario.  I want X.  X costs ____ dollars.  I don't have ____ dollars.  How can I get X for 0 dollars?  Nothing turns on the creative juices for me like this challenge!  And nothing is more fun for me, more primal and life-giving and central to who I am, than creativity!  Usually, especially if I have time to wait for things to come to me, I can pull it off.

To my knowledge, the first time I ever "won" this game, was a snowy day in January about 10 years ago.  I was making the best of being homebound by re-doing the girls' bathroom.  For some unknown reason, there is a niche in the drywall behind the door. In the five years since we'd bought the house I'd wondered what to do with this niche.  On that day, the niche and some glass louvers from an old Florida-style window that I had in the garage came together in the equation in my mind:  niche + glass strips = shelves!  Ta Da!  The louvers even happened to be just the perfect length!

I needed some small pieces of wood to use as shelf supports but I had nothing on hand.  A quick trip to Lowe's would have done the trick but the roads were icy and it would have been stupid to risk my life for shelf supports.  I really wanted those shelves NOW!  What could I use for shelf supports?  I thought and I thought as I continued to work on the rest of the bathroom.  And then it came to me!  I put on my stocking cap over my thinking cap and I went out into the yard and found some branches which I cut to appropriate lengths.  A handful of finishing nails, a hammer, and a few minutes of pounding and I had shelves!  I like the rusticness of the branch pieces as shelf supports even better than I would have liked milled trim pieces.  They just add character!

Yikes!  Another of my less-than-wonderful 6 a.m. photos! 
Now I have a new project:  to restyle this scene and come up with really spiffy pics for later!

It's still a thrill for me every time I see those shelves and I remember the creative brainstorm in the snowstorm that brought them about.  It if hadn't been snowing and I hadn't been thwarted in my impatient desire for instant shelves I would never have had the epiphany that I did and the satisfation that I still enjoy from the experience and the lesson that I continue to carry with me from it. 

Today, it's MUCH more fun for me to get what I want with creativity than it is to get it with money.  Anyone can walk into a furniture store with $10,000 and come out with a beautiful room.  I want that same beautiful room but I also want to win the challenge of getting it for as little as possible.  It's the inherent overachiever in me -- give me a challenge and I want not just an A but a 100+%!

Verna Oller and I could have had some fun together.  I'm sure she had creativity and resourcefulness skills far beyond mine!  I wish I could pick her brain -- AND get stock tips from her!

The whole Verna Oller story:

The boot photo:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Major Happy Dance!

You've heard me say it: the Lord and the dumpster fairies will provide!  Before I offend you, let me clarify that I believe that the dumpster fairies ARE God!  Because, to me, God is ALL magical and wonderful things (that makes me a Universalist if you're denominationalizing)!  And my God has enough of a sense of humor to let me characterize Him as dumpster fairies without getting offended.  So let's just focus on the wonder of it and not get all caught up in the particulars!

I am of the very strong opinion that one of the greatest things on the planet is a Rainbow vacuum.  If you've never had the Rainbow vaccuum experience, then, as far as I'm concerned, you just haven't lived.  And you CERTAINLY haven't vacuumed!  (By the way, did you know that "vacuum" is the only word in the English language that has two u's in a row?  Just thought you shouldn't go through life without knowing that important piece of trivia!)

A Rainbow vacuum is a glorious, wonderful thing.  It's a canister vacuum that has the suction power of a car wash vacuum, happily eats everything in it's path without complaining, and uses a water reservior instead of a vacuum bag which allows it to clean the air while cleaning everything else in sight.  They retail for around $1500.

Alas, the water reservior has been my downfall!  (Don't let that be a knock against Rainbows to you -- just a knock against my easily-distracted, A.D.D. ways.)  I will stop vacuuming to answer the phone or make someone a sandwich or run to pick the girls up from school with the absolute intention of returning immediately to vacuuming.  A week later I'll walk by the abandoned vacuum and my heart will sink because that dirty water in the reservior has, in a week's time, turned to incredibly smelly swamp water.  This is not too terrible in itself but the eventual effect of such repeated misuse is that the bearings in the motor rust and then my precious Rainbow just STOPS.  And I grieve.

In the past, I've gotten on Ebay and found another used Rainbow for $150-$250 and just gone on vacuuming as soon as the UPS man delivers it.  I've done this more times than I care to admit.  But we now live in a different economy in which, for me, there is no Ebay and no UPS man and no replacement Rainbow vacuum.  Tears.

I killed my most recent Rainbow about three years ago.  I've been watching and waiting ever since.  I've killed several lesser vacuums in the interim as well because killing vacuums is one of the things I do best and I am very proud of it (well, not really, but it helps to try to act positive about it)!  I've prayed -- well, not actually PRAYED because that would be kind of insulting to God because He and I have bigger issues to discuss when it comes to prayer -- but I have wished fervently to happen upon another Rainbow.  And I've been waiting.  The local Salvation Army sells all vacuums for $20 regardless of make or model so what I was really hoping for was to happen on a $20 Rainbow at the Salvation Army.  That, in itself, would have been miraculous!  But God is even better to me than that!

This morning as I was driving the girls to school and trying, largely unsuccessfully, to see through the foggy windshield, I saw a shape on the curb in front of a house a few doors down the street from mine.  I couldn't tell what it was through the fog but I could see that it had a piece of white 8 1/2 x 11 copy paper taped to it on which, I was sure without even seeing, was that glorious word "FREE".  As you may have guessed, I stop to check out all free things on the curb.  I hit the brakes just as the mysterious shape came into focus:  a Rainbow vacuum, in all it's divine glory!  And, indeed, the sign did say "FREE".  I gasped in awe and delight at the sight of it and jumped out of the car!

From the back seat, Sara-Grace started wailing, "Noooooo Mom!  I'll be late for school!".  My sensitive, motherly response: "I don't care!  It's a Rainbow!"  I grabbed my prize and threw it in the back of Bonnie-the-clown-car as Sara-Grace continued to wail.

In a deep state of joy and satisfaction and gratitude to a loving God who really does understand my lowly domestic plight and menial desires, I got back into the driver's seat and proceeded onward to school.  Tessa, from the passenger seat, just gave me a knowing smile and a slight, resigned bow and shake of the head and said, "You're going to blog about it, aren't you?"

Of course I am!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Tale of the 27 Cent Bed

One of Enid's wonderful thrift stores has a brilliant six-week rotating mark-down schedule.  Items are at regular price for their first three weeks in the store.  On the 4th week, they are marked down 33%.  On the 5th week, they are marked down 66%.  On the 6th week, anything remaining is 27 cents.  ANYTHING!  27 CENTS! 

I frequently ponder why they chose this seemingly-arbitrary, awkward number. Why 27 cents instead of simply a quarter? I don't know but I'm thinking it's some weird Enid thing because another Enid thrift store has a final mark-down price of 23 cents! Either way, I don't argue! And I certainly don't tell them that I'd pay 50 cents for most of it!

It wasn't until my second pass through the bargain basement section one day that my eyes focused in on this:

A bed for 27 cents!  Maybe it was because it lacked rails.  Maybe everyone else just lacked vision.  I don't know, but I can make rails.  And I had a vision!

Soon after, "the vanity fairy" left a vanity on my doorstep.  I had told my friend John that it's against my rules to take donations when he offered it to me.  He humored me to my face and then very sneakily dropped it off at my house in the middle of the night!  Thanks John!  I greatly enjoy the mental image I have of John as "the vanity fairy" dressed in a pink tutu and tights with wings and a sparkly tiara and crown!  By the way, I have since relaxed my rule about accepting donations!  Why be rigid and ridiculous?

Here is the vanity in it's original state.  You can also see what the original hardwood floors look like.  I had rolled back the carpet to see the floors.  They need some cleaning but I think they'll be great -- better than that horrible carpet!

And here's another view of the bed and the vanity.

The vanity sat in the middle bedroom for a long time while I tried to conjure a vision for both the vanity and the room.  I kept seeing the orange paint from the hall on the vanity (remember, the orange paint that a previous resident had left in the garage?).  Eventually, I gave in and started painting it orange (I haven't quite finished it yet).  And then the bed wanted to be orange.  And then the wall wanted to be orange too.  And then the picture frames had to get in on it -- the copy cats!

I haven't had a chance to paint the three remaining walls the simple vanilla color I have planned.  And the room is quite a ways from where I want it to be -- maybe 60% of done.  But I want to share the process with you as well and the product!

I'm very proud of how little I've spent on the bedroom -- $13.03 total! 

Here's an accounting (please forgive me the formatting gremlins -- in draft form all these numbers line up!):

Bed                                                                            .27
Hollywood frame under the mattress                         FREE
Mattress and box springs                                          FREE
2 queen down comforters                                         FREE
White fitted sheet                                                     FREE
Bed pillows                                                             FREE
Two orange rose pillows                                          4.00
Brown bed skirt                                                       1.76
Vanity                                                                     FREE
Vanity stool                                                             FREE
White lamp                                                              FREE
3 picture frames                                                       FREE
Sheet music                                                             FREE
Pillows made from tan sweater                                    .27
Stuffing for pillows                                                   FREE
Vase                                                                       FREE
Pheasant feathers (from a dumpster wreath)             FREE
2 wall-hanging baskets                                             FREE
2 armless chairs                                                       FREE
White blanket covering chairs                                   FREE
    (until I can slipcover them!)
Brown velvet curtains                                               6.00
Curtain rod                                                              FREE
Finials for curtain rod                                               FREE
Orange duvet cover (not shown)                              FREE
Cabinet (former built-in)                                           FREE
New knobs                                                              FREE
Two vintage adding machines                                   FREE
7 vintage radios                                                        FREE
2 shutter bifold doors for shelves                              FREE
Shelf brackets                                                          FREE
Orange paint                                                            FREE
Small wall shelf (not shown)                                     FREE
Orange metal drawer (not shown)                                .50
Hobnail glass lamp and shade (not shown)               FREE
Glass candy dish (not shown)                                       .25
TOTAL                                                                   13.03

Here's another view of the bed so you can see the bed skirt.  One of the brown velvet curtains is on the bed as a throw in this shot but that was just temporary.  Later added a second free down comforter and a free orange and tan leaf-patterned duvet cover instead!


Here's an in-process stage of the vanity.

I love the ambiance of the framed sheet music.  And it goes well with the radio theme, I think!  The frames were free, the sheet music was free, the cardboard backing the sheet music was free! 

Here's a photo of some sheet music from a flea market that they want $1 a sheet for (I didn't buy it, of course)

I like my free sheet music better!

And here is a before picture of the armless chairs (the cushions are off to the side if you look closely).

I have them pushed together to make a love seat and they fit perfectly under the shelves that hold the vintage radios.  Eventually, I will make slipcovers for them but, for the moment, I threw a white, vintage coverlet over them which is far from ideal but will do until something wonderful arrives to make slipcovers with.  The perfectionist in me is ashamed to let you see them like this but then there's that thing I said earlier about letting you see the process as well as the product.  If I'm not transparent about the process, you will miss out on all the fun of watching the magical way things arrive!  There is so much God it in! 

Be sure to read tomorrow's blog post that I'm about to write about how God masqueraded as the dumpster/free fairies this morning and gave me something I've been wishing for!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dumpster Clothes (Let's Just Call Them What They Are!)

These are my dumpster shoes! 
Aren't they pretty?
Italian Sesto Meucci leather sandals (retail $230), Nine West woven leather whatever-you-call-thems (retail $70), and New Balance running shoes (retail $50+). 

My dumpster shoes are so beautiful my cat had to come admire them!
She thinks they're pretty too!

Tessa's "new" Aeropostale hoodie.

Here are two dumpster outfits that are, for the record, interchangeable.

Route 66 gray cords and red hoodie sweater.

Calvin Klein jeans and Old Navy hoodie.

And FOUR tops that are now Tessa's.
(Wouldn't it be great if I could figure out how to get this photo to STAY rotated?)

Two are from Charlotte Russe, one is from Forever 21, and the fourth is just cute!

My girls may THINK I'm a hobo but I'll never look the part! 
And neither will Tessa!

P.S. Tessa says I DID kind of look the part with my toe sticking out of my sock.  Oh well.

I hereby certify that all of the items pictured below really DID come out of dumpsters.
I swear!
And they are all the right sizes and DO fit!
And I DID wash them!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Hoarder's Revenge

If I had just a smidge less pride I'd show you a picture of all the junk in my garage.  In fact, I almost did post a photo.  But something won't let me push the necessary button. 

I'm just a little wary of officially earning that dreaded title of "hoarder".  What a horrible name for lovers of cool junk!  Now, if you can't throw away trash and you have to keep every newspaper since 1979, I think that might indicate a problem, but cool junk should certainly be the exception to the "horder" label. 

In my own defense, I must say that I have some REALLY COOL junk in my garage!   When I need something for a project, I can usually find it in the garage and spare myself having to go out and hunt it down or, worse yet, PAY for it!

For five or six years I had this little cabinet in the garage.  I think I paid either 4 or 6 dollars for it at a garage sale.  It was dark wood with antiqued brass knobs and a curvy colonial trim piece on top -- very grandma!  Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE grandmas!  I think grandmas are the coolest people on the planet!  I adored my grandmas!  But sometimes grandmas have some outdated stuff that hasn't been around long enough to be vintage or antique yet!  This was one of those things. 

The little cabinet sat in the garage for all those years, was a survivor of several garage sales, and gathered a good coating of dust.  But it was still a little cabinet and I LOVE little cabinets (and anything with little drawers too!) and I knew it had potential if only I could find the inspiration!

Then one day I was flipping through a magazine and saw a similar cabinet that had been made into a jewelry cabinet.  Alas, I'm going to have to quit showing photos of magazine spreads because I think I'm about to get in trouble for copyright issues, so you'll have to do without the inspiration photo.  Sigh.  The good thing about that is now you'll never know if my interpretation pales in comparison to my inspiration! 

I immediately went out into my heap of a garage and dusted off my little cabinet.  I removed the trim piece on top, spray painted it white, and added rabbit wire (also from the garage!) to the the doors.  Then I raided my box of knobs (I always save knobs even if I don't like them and this project absolutely justifies that habit).  And here is my finished product!

I hang earrings on the rabbit wire on the doors which is just the best way I know to store earrings!  I stashed some of my favorite little silver and chrystal dishes inside to hold things that don't hang well.  I added a little lamp that had also been loitering around in the garage forever (and drilled a hole in the corner of the cabinet to feed the lamp cord through).  The lamp is wonderful because I can actually SEE my jewelry, it has great ambiance, and it makes a terrific night light! 

With this projectI have completely justified the junk in my garage!  Right?  Or, at the very least, the 3 other little cabinets I have out there!  Their day will come!

On second thought, go ahead and call me a hoarder if you must!  I'll get the last laugh as my junk stash gradually gets transformed into cool projects!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Mom's a Hobo

Twice yesterday I was called a "hobo" by two of my daughters.  They did this separately, independently, each without knowledge of the other. 

I need your help here -- let me plead my case!

Sara-Grace called me a hobo for picking up acorns.  Observe:  Exhibit A. 

Aren't they beautiful?  And FREE!

Later, Tessa called me a hobo because I had a hole in my sock and my toe was sticking out.  Observe:  Exhibit B.

I didn't KNOW I had a hole in my sock when I put it on.  I discovered the hole later in the day.  I can sew it closed and it will be just like new (almost). Actually, I was pretty proud that I had socks and that they matched both each other AND my outfit!  That's a pretty high class acccomplishment, isn't it?

So I ask you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury:  I dumpster dive, I curb shop, I have SO MUCH FUN with my freesourcefull project -- do I really qualify as a hobo?  And, if so, is hobo status really all that bad?  Perhaps I should just be proud to be a card-carrying hobo!

Hmmm... I'd better be careful -- this could inspire a collection!  Bandana/stick packs perhaps?  Or maybe tacky hobo and clown paintings?  I've got it:  TRAMP ART!  No, actually, tramp art (usually picture frames and trinket boxes made from intricately cut and pieced wooden cigar boxes) is massively expensive.  Maybe I'll just stick with acorns!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In The Raw

A boy I went to grade school with went on to open a wonderful sushi restaurant in Tulsa called In The Raw.  I love all the thoughts and images the phrase "in the raw" conjures up -- most of them are basic and primal and darkly intriquing!

My "in the raw" may not be a delicious as his, but I think it qualifies as basic, primal, and alluring.  It's the vintage, one-car garage at Taylor that's in a very raw stage right now.  Ok, so that may not get your motor running the way it does mine but I hope that when I'm finished with it you might feel differently about that!  I have plans to make it a cute little guest house!

Let me show it to you as it is now.  I think it is just positively quaint -- a throwback to a time before automated overhead doors and slick three-car garages.  This little garage was added sometime after 1932 because I have a  photo of the house from 1932 and the garage wasn't there then.  I think it's safe to assume it was built in the 30's sometime -- in the era of "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage".

I love the vines too.  I know most people hate vines and rip them off.  I know they might damage the structure or the surface, at least, but I LOVE vines!  Actually, I love anything that will grow with abandon all by itself because I always seem to forget that step about how plants need water!

Here is the side view of the garage. Picture a set of french doors in the middle opening onto the yard (that tire would be gone too, of course!) and maybe some sort of pergola over a little outdoor sitting area.  I'm sure I can find some brick or stone to pave it with.

And  here is the inside.  I think it has really good bones and wonderful character!  I plan to make a built-in king-size bed (I already have a free king size mattress) on the far wall (maybe with curtains to separate it off) and then put a sitting area in the middle facing the french doors. 


All the details and finishes remain to be decided but I have a definite vision of how wonderful it will be and, if I do say so myself, the end product of one of my visions usually tends to be even better than I'd envisioned! 

Task number one:  find free french doors!  Too bad I already passed up a set I saw in a dumpster.  They were just a little challenging to remove from the dumpster at the time!  But there will be more -- wishcraft always seems to have a way of taking care of it!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Keebler Tree and Random Jibberish

Mark is a genius!  He figured out that the tree from my last post may be a fun hangout for squirrels but it's really a secret location of The Keebler Tree!  Who knew?  Now I'm going to be on the lookout for cookies when I walk!

In other news, apparently, my love affair with the "Heritage Green" china pattern has been going on for longer than I realized! 

I found this dish in a box in my garage where it's been for years!  When Mark gave me the set for our anniversary, I already had three saucers and a sugar bowl -- and this "fruit bowl" -- in my possession.  Apparently my subconscious has very definite preverences!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Freesourcefull for Squirrels!

This just proves what a complete houseaholic I am! I saw this tree yesterday and, ever since, I've been wishing to be a squirrel so I can move in!

I have lived in this neighborhood for 15 years. When I'm in a walking phase, I walk down that path and by this tree every day -- sometimes twice a day! I have never noticed this hole before. But yesterday it just jumped out at me.

Most of the base of this tree is hollow so it looks like there's quite a bit of space in there. I'm sure the floor is lined with nuts.  I'm sure it has a lovely nest of squirrel fur in one corner.  I can't wait to get a flashlight and peer in there and see it all!  All the squirrels for blocks in every direction probably pine for this home!

Mark has a fascination with squirrels.  He has an awareness of them that I do not.  He constantly sees them and notices what they're up to.  I think we live animal incarnations in between human incarnations as kind-of spriritual adventure vacations!  Mark was definitely a squirrel.  Recently!  Maybe we can be squirrels together in our next incarnation and live in this tree!

I'm thinking it needs a mailbox and a door mat and a little welcome sign!  See?  I'll even do a curb appeal makeover on a squirrel house!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Disco Ball

Sara-Grace is 9.  True to her astrology, she is an amazing Gemini-sort of combination of sweet and tough.  Having spent her whole life trying to keep with with two older sisters (13 and 16), Sara-Grace is beyond her years.  This same experience has also made her pretty adept at getting what she wants!

When I cleaned out the storage shed/playhouse, Sara-Grace decided it was time for a slumber party -- IN the playhouse.  Of course.  She began making plans:  charts, drawings, invitations, grocery lists, and entertainment schedules!  Clearly, she is a much better event planner than I am! 

One thing this party definitely needed, she decided, was a disco ball.  "Good luck!" I told her, rather insensitively, as I have never seen a disco ball available for sale -- ever.  I suspected that they are quite expensive and I had no money to donate to the cause.  I secretly hoped she would drop the issue. 

Undaunted, Sara-Grace decided to MAKE a disco ball.  She got an old basketball and some of the pieces of broken mirror that I was saving for my mosaic artist friend, Vanessa (go to and see all her amazing creations!) and went to work. 

She got a hammer and a towel to wrap the mirror in and commenced to smashing until she had small enough pieces.  When the Elmer's glue didn't work, I went down to the city hazarous waste drop-off facility and got her a free tub of mastic.  For several days she worked intermittently (though diligently) on her disco ball. 

I'll admit, I wasn't very supportive.  I gave her mastic and a little guidance when she needed it (don't get mastic on the table and wear shoes around the broken mirror dust) but, for the most part, I was not a believer and expected the who project to be a exercise in futility.  I was wrong.

This is Sara-Grace's masterpiece:

I think I like it even more than she does!  It's just sculptural and textural and, of course, completely free and recycled and just plain cool!  I'm hoping she'll let me use it in the living room!

Just for fun, here is another view of it:

I wonder what project she'll come up with next?  Next time I'll be on the edge of my seat to see what her idea is and how it comes out!

The slumber party, by the way, was a smashing success!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Remember (if you're old enough!) watching Bewitched? 

Samantha could just wiggle her nose and instantly the house was clean or someone was transformed into a cow or a Bon Appetit style chocolate cake just appeared on a chrystal cake stand!

Samantha's little daugher, Tabitha, in possession of less developed powers, had "wishcraft" which caused whatever she desired to simply appear with just a finger-assisted wiggle of the nose. 

Seems to me that wishcraft is all I would need! You can make plenty of things happen with just wishcraft!

Actually, in less dramatic ways, I believe I already DO have wishcraft!  Let me show you!

Early on in the work at 419 S. Taylor, I had only a few basic tools.  I had a hammer that cost $1.96 at the thrift store.  I had a phillips head screwdriver that was in my car (ok, I cheated but later I found one in a dumpster). 

I was puttering around the house doing little projects and I kept needing a standard slot screwdriver.  Seemingly every task I came to needed a standard screwdriver.  And I kept looking for a screwdriver.  And I kept wishing for a screwdriver.  And I was getting frustrated!  

I couldn't just go buy a screwdriver because that would be like FOUR DOLLARS and I'm totally too conservative with my meager FreeSourceFull funds to do THAT!  Besides, I enjoy the challenge of trying to accomplish the FREE (or almost free) part of FreeSourceFull!  I already knew from buying the hammer that the thrift store had no screwdrivers at the moment (I've since found a pawn shop and a thrift store that always have whole bins of 25 cent screwdrivers!).  So I was stuck -- in that man's hell of not having the right tool for the job!

Several hours later I was wandering around looking for non-screwdriver-requiring tasks when I noticed that a couple of the light bulbs in the fixture over the bathroom sink were burnt out.  Having recently splurged a whole 77 cents for a pack of four light bulbs from Walmart, I climbed up on the toilet to replace the bulbs.  From my new, higher vantage point, look at what I saw:

Yes, lying there on top of the medicine cabinet was a phillips-head screwdriver!  Just left there for my to find by God by way of some poor guy who couldn't figure out where he'd left his screwdriver -- but a gift for me nonetheless and I had been lead straight to it on a very circuitous route!

More recently, really I needed a magic eraser sponge. Ordinary rags and sponges just wouldn't do for this job.  Ridiculously, I didn't want to spend a whole $2.18 plus tax on one.  I know that sounds really cheap but it was probably more that I didn't want to drive all the way to Walmart and I really wanted to work within the free concept -- AND the wishcraft principle!  And then I decided to clean out a flower bed and Voila!

But my favorite instance of wishcraft is this:  I was wishing for a bed for my youngest daughter Sara-Grace's room.  I had in my mind's eye an idea of what I wanted but I had no funds to buy with and no prospects in mind.  A week later I saw the perfect bed, in pieces, lying by the curb on the next street over from my house!  It was even better than I had hoped for (though it doesn't look too spiffy in this pre-repainting photo)! 

I heard somewhere once that we all have guardian angels surrounding us at all times who are very eager to help us but they can't read our minds.  We have to speak our desires out loud so they can hear.  This really works! Speak your wish out loud and things will come to you!  Sometimes they come through people who've heard you speak of them and sometimes they come on their own and you just find them but they DO come!

Oh!  And there's another term for "wishcraft"!  It's also known as "the Lord will provide"!  And He does!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Six Items Or Less

Even if (when!) I make the basement at Taylor into the perfect, beautiful laundry room, there's still not much space to store clothes. I believe I can fit in 3 or 4 freestanding clothes rods but, if a family were living here full time, that still might not be enough hanging space.

I was actively contemplating this issue when I heard about a challenge and a blog called "Six Items Or Less".  The challenge is to wear only six items of clothing for 30 days. You can see the rest of the explanation and the rules at if you'd like.

This sounded like my kind of challenge - after all, I'm the one who challenged myself to do this house for free, right? So I started pondering. The prospect of only six items of clothing seemed terrifying at first. Have you even been on a trip and gotten just SICK of your clothes? But it was late July at the time and my wardrobe was very pared down already due to heat.

As I thought it through, I realized that six DRESSES could be a lot more versatile than, say, two pair of pants and four tops, for example. I chose six summer dresses: A short brown sleeveless v-neck, a long pale pink, a long black sleeveless, a short black chiffon with little white polka dots, a short black sleeveless with tiny ruffles at the neckline, and a short black and white graphic print.  (Sorry this is not a better photo but it was 6 a.m., I didn't have sunlight to work with yet, and I was too impatient to wait for it!)

I wore these six dresses with three pair of shoes (one brown, one casual black, and one dressy black) for most of August. And I loved it! I looked forward to the ease of getting dressed every morning. I usually knew, instintively, exactly which dress I wanted to wear before I even got out of bed. And I liked each of them enough that I didn't get tired of them. This minimal wardrobe also made packing to go to Enid for the weekend a breeze - throw two dresses and two pair of shoes in a big purse and go! My experiment was a smashing success!

Now that it is autumn, I am hating that I have to come up with other things to wear. I miss my six dresses!

I am always freezing in the cooler months so I'm not sure I could get by on just six items in seasons other than summer. However, I think maybe 9 items might suffice: a pair of jeans, a pair of black pants, a black long-sleeved t-shirt and a white long-sleeved t-shirt, a long brown velvet shirt, my favorite green mini-cableknit cardigan, a brown jacket cardigan, a black velour knit cardigan, a pale pink angora cardigan. I think I might try that for November. Stay tuned for photos and feedback!

Closet Crisis

In 1915, people didn't own many clothes.  The closets of the time attest to this fact quite vividly!  Clothes were either store-bought and expensive or handmade which was time-consuming.  Either way, there were fewer of them!

True to their day, the closets at 419 S. Taylor are miniscule.  They are even smaller than what one would normally think of as a "small closet" (those 1920-1960 models).  The two original bedrooms have identical closets that look like this (don't miss the peek at the quaint vintage wallpaper before it runs into the ugly panelling that covers access to the bathroom pipes!):

Both closets are about 7 feet wide but only 18 inches deep -- so shallow, in fact, that you can't hang clothes from side to side like you would in a regular closet.  A clothes hanger is about 17 inches wide so, once you add clothing to it, you'd be rubbing the sides of the closet.  Instead, in these closets, the clothes must be hung in each of the little side alcoves from front to back in that 18" depth.  This allows for about 12 items of clothing on each side.  With some creativity, it is possible to squeeze a few more clothes in here and there but, basically, these closets are completely inadequate for modern humans. 

The middle bedroom had another closet that someone (who still couldn't be called a clothes horse!) built out of 2x4's and paneling.  But it was too ugly for words.  So I took it out.  Actually, I started to take it out but, when I lacked the strength (aka "man power"), Mark happily stepped in for me and had a great time tearing it down in about 2 1/2 minutes flat!

The closet in the sunporch master bedroom is even worse.  Since the sunporch as been used as a laundry room for much of it's life, the closet is, essentially, a broom closet.  It measures 24 inches wide and 28 inches deep.  Spacious for brooms, yes, but it doesn't even seem worth it to try to hang clothes in it.
The picture below is all doors but the closet is the second from the right -- behind the open, unpainted hollow-core bathroom door.

Never fear, however, because one of my favorite mental exercises is to try to solve the spacial and functional problems in a house!  I have it all figured out! 

The partial basement has two rooms.  One will be a bedroom for the boys when I can finish it out.  The other is about 9 x 15 and has laundry hookups (I realize now that I have never even taken photos of the basement.  I'll add them in when I can so check back!).  This will be both the laundry room and the "family closet".  The bulk of everyone's clothing can be kept here.  The closets upstairs can be used for immediate clothes storage without having to pack them to bursting!

Several years ago I became enamoured with the concept of an "Everything Closet" that I learned about in a wonderful book called A Place For Everything: Organizing the Stuff of Life by Peri Wolfman and Charles Gold.  Wolfman and Gold show a master closet that is also the laundry room. This concept makes so much sense to me because I've spent decades hauling laundry up and down stairs and to and from the laundry room.  I even put in a new UPSTAIRS laundry room in my Fayetteville house and turned the downstairs laundry room into a little office.  This was after years of throwing the dirty clothes from the second floor down to the front hall to be sorted and hauled to the laundry room only to have to lug them back up when they were clean. Why not just have it all in one place?  Here are a couple of photos of pages from the book so you can see their version:

I've expanded on the "everything closet" concept in a house plan I designed (but haven't built - yet!) in which the upstairs laundry room adjoins the master closet (and other closets as well, if configured carefully) so that it is close but everyone else's clothes don't end up in mom and dad's closet.

My inspiration for the laundry room at Taylor comes from this magazine spread (Country Home, March 2006):

Isn't it glorious?  This room just makes me HAPPY!  I could look at it all day.  I could live in it.  I could die happy there (but not for another 60+ years because I'm nowhere near done yet)! 

By the way, the laundry room at Taylor looks a lot like what this laundry room looked liked before (see below).  Very basementy!

I hope to post equally dramatic before and after pictures of MY basement laundry room when I'm done with it! 

I can't believe I just wrote a whole piece on ugly, empty closets and a creepy basement laundry room.  But maybe, just maybe, seeing the dingy, boring, uninspiring "before" will give you a greater appreciation when you finally get to see the "after"!  In the meantime, you can spend every waking moment anticipating it!  Oh, wait a minute, you're probably not as obsessed with my laundry room as I am.  Well, anyway, I'm entertaining myself even if I'm boring YOU!