Our trampoline mat ripped in April. I called the company immediately to order a replacement part, which was backordered until June. Happily, it didn’t take that long; it arrived at our house a few days ago.
Be proud of me: I recognized that if Mr. December and I tried to replace the mat ourselves, it would take several hours of sweating and swearing, and there was a very real possibility that someone would get whacked in the head with one of the tension rods. We decided to hire a professional. He did the job this morning in twenty minutes.
So now the trampoline is back after a month and a half.
I’m back, too, I think. I jumped on the trampoline a very little bit today, something I was previously unable to do without bringing on post-concussion symptoms (the concussion was two years ago, but some effects still linger.) It was exhilarating. Tomorrow I’ll jump just a bit longer and before you know it, trampolining will be my daily workout.
I’ve also been biking more this past week, and I’ve been able to go on short rides without triggering another fibro flare. The rides are far shorter than what I used to do at my peak, but my body is just happy to be moving again, and I can’t expect to go from a six-week flare and a year of lockdowns into fourteen kilometres with a loaded 100-pound cargo bike overnight, can I?
As reluctant as I am to admit it, Mr. December was kind of right about the light situation in our bedroom. After a blowout “fix this now!” argument, I stomped upstairs and blocked the windows completely with cardboard. It looks pretty awful from outside, but it definitely creates blackout conditions. Last night I slept a lot later than I have the past couple of weeks. We’ve also been going to sleep a bit earlier, and I know that the increased sleep is likely keeping me from flaring again.
I’m not okay with having cardboard in my windows all the time, though. The extra hardware for our new curtain rod has come in, and so has the black adhesive-backed felt I ordered (to stick to the ceiling between the wall and the curtains, because otherwise the light just reflects off the ceiling and straight into our eyes.) Mr. December will help me install everything this weekend. It had better work. If it doesn’t, I’m sure you’ll be able to hear my scream of frustration no matter where in the world you are.
Okay, fine. She’s not a baby. She’s six. But she’s my baby, and this was her first IKEA build.
We’ve taken a very relaxed approach to furnishing our house. The library still has the old cushion from our old window seat (it doesn’t fit the new seat,) a super-comfy-from-the-curb rocking chair, and a beanbag. Our dining table is sagging—I’m convinced the only thing holding it up is the metal slides on the underside—and the chairs are beyond awful. My headboard is as yet unfinished, as is my built-in desk. And E’s room… where I had planned to have neat built-ins on either side of her bed, she has two mismatched (in size and colour) cube shelves that didn’t fit anywhere else in the house.
I finally decided to design the built-ins using modular IKEA furniture. The components arrived here on Tuesday, and today E declared that she was ready to “build my first IKEA thing!”
I’ve been assembling IKEA furniture for so long that I’ve forgotten that their instructions are a language unto themselves. I taught E all about what the letter “i” in a circle means, why there’s a hand pointing to a particular component, and how to tell all the different kinds of screws apart. By the end she was assembling like a pro.
Part of my plan for E’s room is a unit on wheels that can roll behind her headboard when she’s not using it, and then be pulled out and used as a dollhouse when she wants it. Not that she wouldn’t have room for a dollhouse that just sits out all the time, but I’m apparently not happy until my build has something that pulls out, rolls out, tucks in, or slides away. I’m quirky like that: I love my rolling kitchen island (that tucks under the counter,) the pull-out desk in the library, and my camouflaged command centre cabinet in the dining room.
The IKEA series I’m using for E’s room is called EKET. For the roll-out dollhouse/bookshelf I decided to have two cubes facing the room so she can access them when the unit is rolled away. That made joining the cubes a bit tricky to figure out, but maybe that’s just my tendency to overthink things; I ended up just using screws to attach the units to each other. I was a bit worried about the whole thing sagging at the joint between the units, so I flipped it upside down and screwed a metal plate into the bottom, straddling the join point. While the unit was upside down I added fixed casters (because swivel casters would be a disaster of scraping and banging into stuff. Fixed casters basically act like a drawer slide.)
I’m sure it’ll be a few more weekends before I’m really done with E’s room, so that’s all you’re getting tonight. In fact, after N sees this he’ll want to know why I started on E’s room without finishing his; right now he’s got several stacks of these IKEA cubes on his floor and the mounting templates taped to the wall. What can I say? ADHD means never wanting to finish one thing before starting another. Story of my life.
Building on yesterday’s success, today I finished N’s roller shade—sort of—and fixed E’s Roman shade. It’s fully operational again, now with a hint of minty freshness!
If you know how Roman shades are made, you’ll understand when I tell you that the clear plastic rings detached from the shade, rendering the string useless. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a picture:
It’s ugly, I know, but nobody sees that side. Anyhow, nine of these little plastic rings had come off the shade when the string holding them broke. I had to sew them back on stronger than before; I had absolutely no desire to fix this shade every six months. That’s why instead of thread, I used dental floss.
Confession time: I’m not a flosser. I mean, I know how, and occasionally I’ll do it if I feel the need, but that happens rarely if at all. Our dentist gives us free floss at every visit (along with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and anything else we feel we need) which means that I’ve built up quite a stash of the stuff.
It’s pretty friction-tolerant (it would have to be if you’re dragging it past sharp biting edges of teeth) so I figure it should be able to survive the rigors of life as a bedroom window treatment. Time will tell, I suppose. In the meantime I get to feel productive—which my friends remind me shouldn’t be the yardstick by which my worth is measured, but it makes me feel good nonetheless.
There’s a drawer in the library that has not worked properly since it was built. A few months ago I took a close look and determined that the drawer was an eighth of an inch too wide, which was causing the drawer glides to bind. I was convinced that I’d have to build an entirely new drawer box.
Tonight I decided to take a closer look. It occurred to me that there was enough space between the side of the drawer and the side of the cabinet to just reposition the drawer glide further from the edge of the drawer. This was exciting news: if true, it would be a pretty easy fix.
I did all my measuring. I cut out an extra notch at the back of the drawer so the glide could fit in. I drilled new holes for the little pins that connect the glide to the drawer. Then it was time to put the drawer glides back into the cabinet, which was not a comfortable operation. The cabinet opening is about three inches by six inches, and I had to get both of my hands in there. I couldn’t use my power drill since it was too big; instead I used our little ratcheting screwdriver. It took forever and got grease all over my hands from the glides.
It took way too long to screw in four measly screws. By the time I finished I was ready to put in the drawer and be done with it all. I pulled out the glides and positioned the drawer on them.
It didn’t fit.
[Insert swear words here.]
I took the drawer out and ripped out the spacer I had put in to keep the right glide in position. “One more time,” I muttered to myself. I slid the glides out, positioned the drawer, pushed it onto the prongs, and slid the drawer shut.
It closed this time, but it wasn’t pretty. See exhibit A, below. The photo on the right is of the other drawer, the front of which sits flush with the surrounding frame. The photo on the left is of the drawer that I attempted to fix: it’s fully closed, but it still juts out from the frame by a good quarter-inch. Blast!
Now it looks like I’ll have to unscrew the drawer glides from the cabinet sides (again with the cramped space and the tiny ratcheting screwdriver) and reinstall them just a smidge farther away from the cabinet front. Oh, goody. What fun.
I probably had time to finish fixing it tonight, but it’s usually better to stop before you feel like torching the whole *&%$ thing because it just won’t work. I might fix it tomorrow, but for tonight it’s a fix-it fail.
When we were designing our house, way back in ’15, I already knew I wanted our powder room to have more than just a tiny handwashing sink. It needed to be able to store lots of extra toilet paper and hand towels, of course, but also things like hairbrushes and elastics for last-minute I’m-not-going-back-upstairs-for-this ponytails. It also needed to fit in a six-foot by four-foot bathroom along with a toilet and an inswing door.
“Why don’t you just do a nice wall-hung sink and store your stuff somewhere else?” the architect asked.
“What about just a tiny vanity?” the architect’s assistant wondered aloud.
“Nope and nope,” I said resolutely.
I hadn’t told them yet, but I also wanted a wide sink so that two kids could stand side-by-side to wash their hands. They didn’t disappoint: they told me that was unlikely to work in such a small bathroom.
To them I basically said, “Hold my coffee.” Then I hacked a vanity that ticked all the boxes.
Unsurprisingly (if you know me,) it started at IKEA. They had some nice big sinks that didn’t stick out too much. The one I chose—LILLANGEN—had a soap dish and a tray that fit inside the sink itself. As a bonus, I figured it could be installed so that it looked like an apron-front farmhouse sink.
But the vanity designed for that sink was one of IKEA’s cheaper ones, and it didn’t look very nice. I preferred the solid-wood HEMNES vanities with drawers. Some quick math told me that I could fit three of them along the six-foot wall in the bathroom, and as they only protruded about 12 inches into the room, there’d still be space for the toilet beside it.
(Unfortunately for those of you who’d like to reproduce this hack, IKEA doesn’t seem to sell the 12-inch-deep version of the HEMNES anymore.)
There were a couple of minor problems. The first was the colour: I could only get the vanity in black. No problem—that would be solved with some spray paint.
The next problem was that if I set the sink fully centered on one of the three vanities I was combining, it would be very weirdly off centre and half-obscured by the door when the door was open (which is a lot of the time, especially if you’re just ducking in to wash your hands.) It would look much better if I could offset the sink so that it was centred on two of the cabinets, but that would require some fancy work.
Here’s how I did it:
Step One:Purchasing I bought three HEMNES vanities and the LILLANGEN sink. I was still a bit unsure of what I’d have to do to hack it, so I also bought a HEMNES étagère shelf as well: it was relatively inexpensive and would give me some extra (matching) materials to work with if I needed them.
Step Two: Planning for the sink I needed the sink to straddle the post between two units. To do that, I measured and marked how low the sink would sit, and then cut one panel to the correct height.
Step Three: Modifying the frame The vanities were only intended to have drawer glides attached to the insides of their side panels. For my vanity, though, I needed the two panels in the middle to have drawer hardware on both sides. Using the cut-down side panel from Step Two as well as an unmodified side panel, I drilled through all of the holes in the panel so that they were open on both sides. Then I assembled the vanity as I would normally.
Now I had one whole vanity frame with holes on its outside. Then I followed the original instructions to attach the outer frames to the inner one (by dropping a side panel each and using the central frame as the side panels.) Make sense?
Because the panels weren’t recessed equally on the inside and outside of the side pieces, I couldn’t just use the parts that came with the vanity to mount the drawer glides on the outsides: instead I used shims to install the drawer glides so that the drawers would fit properly. Then I followed the instructions to connect the side panels to each other so that they framed three columns of drawers.
Step Four: Accommodating the sink I wanted the sink to look like a farmhouse sink, which meant that the front of it would have to go where the top drawers would normally be. I had already cut down the centre panel, but now I needed to fill the spaces on either side of the sink as well as add a crossbar to support the sink’s front edge. For this I used the extra side pieces as well as one long piece of wood from the HEMNES étagère that I bought. It would have been really cool to have tiny drawers there, but I was hesitant to complicate things any further.
At this point the sink fit, but two of my top drawers were now too tall.
Fortunately, the drawer boxes themselves mostly fit under the sink. I just had to cut out a bit of one side and the back of each to accommodate the sink and the plumbing. The drawer fronts were easily cut down to their new size, and I used my router on the new top edge to make it look like the original.
As for the drain, IKEA has a neat drain system where the drain almost immediately runs back to the wall and then goes down into the P-trap, so I only had to cut a bit out of the panel directly under the middle of the sink to accommodate the drain assembly.
Step Five: Colour The vanity needed paint now. I found a colour of Rustoleum Painter’s Touch spray paint—Ink Blue—that was almost an exact match for the Benjamin Moore Starry Night Blue that covered the trim and the ceiling of our powder room. I used my spray tent to protect the driveway (although to this day my parents’ driveway still has flecks of this colour on it—sorry, Mum and Dad.)
Step Six: Installation When I brought the vanity over to our house, there were a few tense moments trying to get it through the powder room door. Twisting and turning it eventually worked, and our contractors leveled the feet and screwed the vanity into the wall. I cut the countertops so that they were recessed from the front of the sink; the plumber installed the sink, faucet, and drain. My final finishing touch was to install ring pulls so that there wouldn’t be knobs sticking out into an already-too-small space.
Ta-da! That’s it! I’m so pleased with how this vanity turned out. If you do try it, please come back and brag in the comments!
I happened across a post on Facebook offering these four chairs, brand new in box, for free. Since the fasteners on our IKEA chairs (circa 2001) have been tightened repeatedly and still feel rickety, I expressed my interest. That was last night. By noon today I had driven two kilometres to pick them up, and at seven this evening I assembled the first one. We’re trying it out now to decide whether we like them enough to keep, or whether we should pass them on to the next interested party.
This is not my first foray into what I call the Free Economy (or sometimes, the Curb Economy.) Many of my acquisitions have been from the curb on trash day or from a “free to a loving home” post on Facebook.
The comfiest chair in our house is a fully upholstered Dutalier glider that was put out at the curb on someone’s moving day. A couple of tiny stains aside, it was in good condition and certainly looked and worked way better than my decrepit wooden glider. It was just at the end of our block and one of the moving guys graciously offered us the loan of his dolly to roll the chair home.
We’ve found two IKEA children’s tables (plastic) on the curb in our neighbourhood. One was covered with marker scribbles; if I was more pretentious I would say that it had a “distressed finish.” Whatever you want to call it, I was glad I wouldn’t have to get upset about the first marker lines to mar the perfect tabletop.
Just when I was trying to teach E how to ride a two-wheeler, someone offered a free Balance Buddy on the neighbourhood Facebook group. It only took a couple of weeks for her to learn, and then the bike training handle was passed to another neighbour.
The most comfortable couch we own was free, courtesy of a friend for whom style will always trump comfort. After her renovation the couch had “the wrong form factor” (I think that means shape,) so it had to go. The colour isn’t so great in our living room, but I’m willing to put up with a slight deviation from our colour scheme because this couch feels so decadent to sit and lie on. The kids have already informed me it’s never leaving our house.
The list is extensive and I won’t belabour the point. From the wooden tea chest that holds board game parts to the training bras I needed to buy, I’ve benefited repeatedly from hand-me-downs and curbside finds.
When Mr. December first heard I had claimed these free chairs, he commented that surely there must be someone in need who couldn’t afford to buy them new. I pointed out that if I passed on the chairs, there was no guarantee that the next people in line for them would be any more in need of them than we are. Besides, here was a risk-free way to try this style of chair. If it didn’t work for us, we could then pass the chairs on to someone else.
I think that some people still associate hand-me-downs and curbside shopping with being poor. But in some circles it has always been about sharing, reducing consumption, and keeping stuff out of landfills. Besides, participating fairly in the free economy means that you give as well as get. True story: when Mr. December moved out of his student hovel, we dragged to the curb the ugly hand-me-down sofa that some roommate’s grandma had given them. We went back inside the house to get the next thing destined for the curb; by the time we got outside again the couch was gone. A few moments later I was standing in Mr. D’s living room, looking through the window… when I saw through the neighbour’s window that they now had the couch—the free economy had worked its magic.
I’ve given away furniture, toys, clothing, and even scrap wood to people who wanted them. One friend of mine gratefully took some Masonite off my hands for an upcycling project; another friend just posted that she’s looking for picture frames of various shapes and sizes, and I happen to have a pile of unused frames in our basement storage room. She can take her pick.
When the universe give me such an abundance of things, I feel free to share with everyone around me. And if I accidentally give away something I’ll end up needing… well, I have confidence that someone somewhere in this city will be giving that something away one day soon.
Jewish tradition says that ever since the Beit Hamikdash (main temple in Jerusalem) was destroyed, each Jewish home is a Mikdash Me’at (little temple.) I usually take that to mean that all the small Jewish rituals we do in our homes—Chanukah candles, Kiddush for Shabbat, Havdallah, even thanking God after meals—make our homes a place for spiritual connection with the divine. But today I got a bit more literal with the whole “little temple” thing: I turned my living room into a chapel of sorts for K’s bat mitzvah.
I feel like this should be a tutorial. I could show you how to make a Torah-reading table out of an IKEA desk, some leftover moulding scraps, a spare drawer box, and some Masonite. You have all of those things at home, don’t you? Doesn’t everybody?
Does that mean you also don’t have seven metres of sheer drapery fabric sitting around? Because that would be really useful to hide the computers and messy cubbies from the webcam.
K and I prepared little packages for some of our more local friends and family, containing the siddur (prayer book) I’ve compiled for the event as well as some soft candies to throw at the bat mitzvah girl. We sealed them with the logo stickers I designed (rubber ducky silhouette wearing a blue kippah and a blue mask,) and spent two hours driving around to deliver them in person, before the stay-at-home order comes into effect at midnight tonight. We didn’t get to a few people, but they’re the ones who live close enough that we can go for a walk and just drop the package into their mailbox, so we can do it tomorrow or Friday (I’m pretty sure a stay-at-home order still allows us to go for a walk.)
Below are some pics of our reading table uncovered, N playing on the computer behind the drapes we put up (using a tension rod) to hide all the clutter, and K reading during our Zoom rehearsal (note the computer sitting on a stack of game boxes.) There’s plenty I could tell you about our rehearsal, but I’ll just say that it was much needed. And now I’m off to relax a bit before my bed beckons any louder.
Did you read the title in Arnold Schwartzenegger’s voice? Just wondering, because that’s how I wrote it.
After building my first FIFO can rack, I realized I’d need another, and decided it was high time for me to post a tutorial. I thought about the modifications it needed and designed the whole thing in SketchUp. Then, one morning last week, I gathered my materials and set up Buttercup, my beloved table saw. I even asked Mr. December to take a good photo of me cutting the material.
I was going to explain to you how I upcycled my IKEA PAX drawer dividers from my old closet to serve as the dividers between rows of cans, and how I cut dadoes (grooves) in the shelves to hold the dividers.
Even when one of the boards slid sideways during cutting (note to self: ALWAYS double-check to make sure the guide fence is locked!) and I ended up with some dadoes that looked more like the mark of Zorro than a straight line, I was still committed to the tutorial.
But then I aligned, glued, clamped, and screwed everything, and my mistake became glaringly obvious: the top shelf was too narrow. Where it should have let just one can drop through, it had space for at least two.
Mr. December heard my frustrated moan and my cry of “OH, COME ON!” and laughed. Then he came out of his office to see what the fuss was about and he laughed some more. And that’s when I gave up on making this thing a tutorial.
I fixed it, in the end, by adding a small strip of wood to the back of the top shelf. You can see it in this photo:
Instead of being a relatively quick project with nothing but simple assembly once the pieces were cut, the can rack became a labour-intensive piece of work. I didn’t have the wherewithal to drag Buttercup back out to make dadoes on that tiny piece of wood, so I used my acrylic cutter blade to carve into the plywood. Then I used a flat-headed screwdriver to pry out the top few layers of wood, so the dividers could fit into the slots.
Finally finished, I carefully slid the whole thing into the shelf it was destined for… and discovered that I’d made it about three inches too short. $#!%!!!! I could have fit a whole ‘nother row of cans in there! At this point my confidence in both the ease and quality of this build was shattered.
The rack works, and it makes Mr. December inordinately happy to look at (I picture him walking in there after a tough work meeting and taking a deep, cleansing breath at the sight of his stockpile,) so in that sense it’s a success. My plan for a tutorial, on the other hand, was not. The whole process was a lot less Instructables and a lot more Fail Blog than I thought.
But if you’re a crazy survivalist prepper with a large family, or if you’re married to one, you could make one of these with only some IKEA drawer dividers, plywood, trim, a table saw, lots of glue, some clamps, and a Perspex cutter. And if you manage it in under 8 hours, send me a picture, will you?
I spent part of my day yesterday with a spreadsheet, taking inventory in our basement. Mr. December felt that today was the day to do it—he thinks that we’ll be seeing shutdowns soon and wants to be prepared—so we counted cans of beans and calculated kilos of rice and so on, so that I could then go and order all the stuff we don’t have.
While we were down there we started talking about finding a different way to organize the canned beans. We decided we need a FIFO (First In, First Out) system, which I then found for sale on the internet for Too Much Money. I mean, we can afford it, but it seemed ridiculous, so I did what I always do in these circumstances: I made it myself. The best part? I used old scraps of wood and masonite that I saved from other projects.
Remember when Mr. December and I broke the bed? I saved the broken slats all those months ago, and yesterday I ran a few of them through the table saw to create dividers for the rows of cans. A few more of the bed slats performed a supporting role in the rack. A scrap piece of plywood turned into the two sides, and various odds and ends of trim came in handy for edging the shelves. Here’s what it looks like so far:
See, you put the cans on the top shelf and they roll towards the back of the shelf, then drop through to the bottom shelf and roll to the front. The oldest cans will always be the first ones we reach for.
I spent the rest of the day working on the puzzle I blogged about yesterday. Mr. December asked me where it’s going to live while we’re working on it. I had no idea, but I went downstairs to where I keep all my extra stuff and came back up with a cabinet door. I stuck felt pads on the corners so it wouldn’t damage the floors when we slide it under the couch. Then I grabbed my glue gun and ran a bead of glue around the edge of the door so the puzzle pieces can’t slide off.
As you can see, we’ve made some serious progress on the puzzle (although looking at this picture, it looks to me like one or two of those pieces are in the wrong place. The colours don’t match.) It’ll still take us a week or so to finish it, so I’m glad we can now stow it and pull it out easily.
I guess Mr. December and I are both kind of hoarders in our own way. He’s a bit of a crazy survivalist prepper, and I’m the kind of person who says, “I’ll save it—it’ll come in useful someday.” But is it still hoarding if the stuff actually ends up getting used?
I put up a lamp over R’s desk today. The cord was way too long, and rather than just tying it with a cable tie and forgetting about it, I figured out how to shorten it.
The lamp is one of these:
So I looked at the hole where the cord comes out and thought, Maybe I can just stuff the cord in there. I tried, but I could only get a few centimetres in.
So I opened the back of the metal part that attaches to the wall and had a look. Inside there was a white plastic box that was screwed shut.
If it can be screwed shut, then it can be unscrewed and opened, I reasoned. So I opened up the inside of the lamp. Inside I found more cords and what I assume is some sort of LED-friendly transformer. I also found a bunch of empty space. So I filled it:
Then I mounted the lamp on the wall beside R’s desk and patted myself on the back for a job well done.
I took apart our sukkah frame today. The walls actually came down (and got washed, folded, and neatly stowed in a plastic box) the day after Sukkot ended, but the frame has been up this whole time.
I couldn’t find the ladder I had used to put the frame up. A normal person might have gone looking for the ladder; I am not a normal person. I thought about it for a minute and then figured out how to take down the sukkah without needing a ladder at all. And if I can take it down without a ladder, doesn’t it follow that I could put it up without a ladder next year?
Bear with me for a moment while I write a note to myself:
Dear Me, Next year when you take out the sukkah frame, assemble it as follows: 1. Assemble the north wall (two posts and top beam) and attach the first ⅔ of each north-south ceiling beam as well. 2. Use the partial ceiling beams to push the north wall frame upright. Secure posts by screwing them into the fence. 3. Assemble the south wall (two posts, top and bottom beams) and lay it out on the ground, with the bottoms near the base of the north wall. 4. Attach the last ⅓ of each ceiling beam to the other ⅔. Then attach the free end to the south wall assembly (which is still lying on the ground.) 5. Before you raise the south wall into place, attach the bird netting to the ceiling. 6. Attach the 2×3 to the wall of the house with the blue concrete screws. The anchors are already in the brick. 7. NOW raise the south wall into place. Attach the south-west post to the 2×3 with pipe clamps and screws. 8. Anchor the south-east post with a concrete deck block. 9. Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re awesome. Love, Me.
One more thing got taken apart today, but it won’t ever be reassembled. Our fancy corkscrew died. The arm wasn’t moving like it was supposed to, so Mr. December started to fiddle with it.
“Do you have a hammer?” he asked. “I think if I just tap on this part I can get these cogs to line up again.”
We went down to the makery. Several taps of the hammer later, it wasn’t looking good for our corkscrew.
“Uh, sweetheart?” I offered, “Maybe this metal piece with the snapped-off edge has something to do with the malfunction…”
I was right. Of course I was—putting stuff together is my area of expertise. So is online shopping, which comes in handy for replacing things that get broken, if a replacement is needed. Most of the time, though, I can fix things—or even improve them—by taking them apart.