A Jules-of-all-Trades

5 for Friday: to the Beach! May 30, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — nearlyfactotum @ 9:00 am

5 things to bring to the Beach (that you otherwise might forget)  Summertime a lot of people go to the beach, so just in case you are one of those lucky people, here’s a list for you!  We lived in Pensacola for two years and these are some things that weren’t initially on our list but got added at some point in time that turned into regulars.  (and please, a good sunscreen is necessary!!)


1) Baby powder.  My favorite trick, as I hate the feel of gritty sand.  A little trick (well, if you’d rather have white powder over you vs a car full of sand) is to keep some baby powder in your beach bag and before you get in the car, sprinkle it on your legs and feet, and it knocks the sand right off!

2) Water/Ice.  Freeze some waterbottles filled with water (sometimes at various fullness depending on how hot/duration of beachtime) because that is the #1 reason of discomfort for my family.  We don’t like to be thirsty.

3) Shade.  Nowadays, not every beach allows sunshades, but if yours do, even the smallest lean-to can be a lifesaver.  When A was little, we would set up this little lean-to for her to nap in and feed in.  It was priceless.

4)  Entertainment.  This seems kinda silly putting on the list. I’m not one of those people who can just lay in the sun not doing anything.  I think everyone has their preferences: a book, boogie board, football, etc.  Our family is a bocce ball family.  Digging holes can only go so far.

5) Music.  Pat loves music, but sand+heat+electronics can be disastrous.  From our time in San Antonio we bought a eGo waterproof case for an MP3 player.  That was great for tubing down the river.  It also is great for the beach.  Impermeable to water, good speaker sound, and still having the ability to scroll through music.  They don’t make the one we have anymore, as technology has changed, but I just checked Amazon for other waterproof speakers and there are tons to choose from.  Just please be mindful of how loud it is and vulgar language.  We’d only use it pretty quietly so to not bother our neighbors, but we can all remember the times someone was out with a huge boombox.  Not my cup of tea.


5 for Friday: Renovation/DIY tips May 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — nearlyfactotum @ 9:00 am
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I’m seeing if I can start (and keep up with) doing a 5 for Friday series.  Every week give you 5 tips from my experiences on various topics.   Here goes the series opener!

5 tips for doing a reno or DIY project:  *please note, this is just me, not an expert, trying to help you with a project you might be contemplating!

1) Know your limits.  Know your skillset.  I can do basic plumbing, but anything electrical I am not comfortable with.  Those are two things I’ll call a professional.  I helped my friend a few months ago with her bathroom (drywall spackle on the wallpaper seams, priming and painting) which she saw me doing in my kitchen.  I walked her through it, explained it, and gave her a boost of encouragement.  A phone call later, rushing to her house to calm her crying, and some reassurance, we got it done.  I am guilty of not realizing everyone knows how to paint a wall.  She just needed me to show her a few things, walk her though it, and then we got done and it is beautiful.

2) Make a list of what is desired for your project/strategy for completion. Keep it around.  Even the smallest of project can have this happen. Keep monitoring this list!!  You’d be surprised how often you can get sidetracked  Squirrel!!  Last week I was debating on whether it was time to paint the ceiling or not, it needs to get done, as a patch was reworked.  I didn’t want to do it, and then all of a sudden I found myself painting the hallway.  That wasn’t even on the list of possibilities, but then I found myself painting, and once you start, you can’t stop!  (sidenote: It is amazing coming across early sketches/notes after a project is finished and seeing how it turned out!)

3) Research! YouTube is great with how-to videos.  Family Handyman, DIY network online, HGTV, BHG, and countless blogs and manufacturing websites have directions, suggestions and how-to’s on things.  Do research on products, check ratings, and know fully what you’re getting into, surprises aren’t always good.

4) Expect setbacks.  You’re short 3 tile squares, or one quart of paint. Trips to Home Depot or Lowes happen, it’s okay.  Expect that timelines aren’t always feasible.

5) GO FOR IT!  Take a breath and get started!  Not all projects are easy, or come out the way they’re intended.  Don’t be hard on yourself, at least you know now that is the way to NOT do it!  That being said, you’d be amazed what you can complete with a vision, strategy, research and execution!


Garage Door Windows May 21, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — nearlyfactotum @ 3:02 pm

I think my husband thinks I make more projects for myself than necessary. This is one of them. He was skeptical at first, but then once he came home from a TDY with it finished, he admitted it looked pretty good.

Last year I put contact paper on the windows surrounding the front door to provide privacy in a stylish way. I recently decided to do something similar in the garage because I don’t necessarily like people being able to look in our garage with ease.  Not that we house anything super-awesome in there, but gives a cleaner look by not seeing all the stuff everywhere.

So as with before, I got the contact paper, cut it to size, cleaned the windows, installed the paper, then cut with an X-acto knife the design. Simple yet classy.  You can’t really see it well in the photos, but it is there!

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TV Tray Updates May 19, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — nearlyfactotum @ 1:20 pm
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I think it is obvious I’m not a very diligent blogger.  But what you don’t know is that I have a few in the queue which I never finished.  I got most of the writing done, and then got sidetracked (can someone say Amelia?!) and then it is past due.  I can’t really post the “welcome spring” post about our vegetable garden, bulbs showing, the plants I have on order for springtime, or the trees budding.  Our garden is functioning (most are growing well-namely stuff that was in the compost which is now taller than the purchased vegetable plants), and bulbs are past prime.  So yeah, spring is here.    People have opened their pools.  I’m severely tardy.

That being said, when Pat goes out of town, I get busy.  I mean seriously, it’s kinda nutty.

Pat left for about a week for a TDY (temporary duty) and I got a little mini-project done every day almost!  But you see, I don’t get these done when he’s home.  Some kind of mental “I want to surprise him when he gets home from a trip/I don’t want to have a partially-done project crazy about the house when he gets off work.”  Needless to say, he was thrilled with some projects (tables which I’m about to show you), not-so-much with others (painting the hallway.)

So we’ve had the basic collapsible TV trays for a few years.  I mean, they’re nothing special.  A while ago I came up with the idea of refinishing them.  Well, not a total refinish, but sanding down the top, staining a design on it, and then sealing them.  I encountered a few hiccups (the wood wouldn’t accept the stain) so I painted the designs and then put a polyurethane topcoat.

The process in pictures:

DSCN7532  DSCN7537


Started out with the tables, palm sanded the tops only.

Found the pictures I wanted to use online, printed them out, then traced them onto tacky paper.










DSCN7541Put the tacky paper on the tables, ensuring they were centered.  Then carefully cut out the parts I wanted to paint using an X-acto knife.  The Eagles table was the most in-depth, as it has a few different colors.  Started darkest then went from there.








Finally did a few touch-ups once I pulled off the tacky-paper, polyurethaned the tables, let dry, and they look great!  Pat was super surprised and happy about them!  Score one for me!







as promised… kitchen countertop April 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — nearlyfactotum @ 5:22 pm

DSCN7314I was just checking out pDSCN7278osts from this time last year… how time flies!  First, how much Amelia has grown; and then second, I can’t believe the front door was painted goldenrod last year!  Seems more recent than that!  I also realized I’m a little behind on some of my garden planting, this time last year we already ate some radishes, I only have little sproutlings right now!

Well, on to 2014.  I said before that I would discuss our countertop situation.  Well, it is no longer a situation but it did have a few hiccups along the way.  I’d say well over a year ago, probably a year and a half, Pat and I picked out exactly what we wanted in our kitchen countertop.  It’s unconventional in color (blue, not knock-your-socks-off blue, but still a gray-blue) and quartz.  So we knew if we got it in this house, hopefully we’d be staying here a while because of the price, and not everyone would like blue countertops if we had to try to sell it.  Well, that project was waaaaaay on a back burner because of the bathroom overhaul and shower renovation.  Our plan for the kitchen was to do something with the wallpaper, use the current cabinets (they’re in good shape, just need a little TLC in areas and paint/restain/do something with the color) new countertop, backsplash, and eventually flooring.  The countertops were formica that swept up the backsplash as well, they were in fair shape but showing some age with dings, cracks, stains, etc.  Oh, and cutting down the bar top counter to have it be counter-height all the way around.  That is an aesthetic choice on my part, I don’t like how it broke up the room, but I’m sure there are plenty of others who think I’m crazy for wanting that done.DSCN7293

Well, a few weeks ago, now that we are done with the bathroom, I stopped by our local countertop place who I had come by eons ago to measure the kitchen and to finally get the quote on the countertop.  Well, it was discontinued.  No more.  Nada.  Oh, but wait!  There was 1 1/2 slabs in Missouri, just enough to do our job!  Oh, but wait… they were from different runs, so they wouldn’t necessarily match.  So they sent photos of the slabs together.  This is where a leap of faith, or maybe you would call it stubborness, happened.  The two slabs would not touch each other, they would be separated by a few feet, but they said there was a visible difference between the slabs.  I (with my handy-dandy computer) totally took those photos into my program and messed with the saturation, brightness, etc to seDSCN7315e HOW different they were.  My sales lady suggested not to do it.  Her boss said he wouldn’t sign off on it.  But oh no, not me, not my heartthrob of a slab of quartz!!  I didn’t see a difference!  There was only a slight difference in the aggregate speckles, but that is expected, that is what gives it character.  Anyway, after a few days of Pat and I arguing with each other why we both really want to do it, but not wanting to potentially have made a mistake, we decided to go for it!  And do you know what?  IT LOOKS FANTASTIC!!!  (and you know, since it is discontinued, we got a great price AND I can boast that we have the last of this countertop in the country!) haha

So now we are in the discussion/deliberation of what backsplash to do.  I mudded, sanded, remudded, sanded and painted the backsplash to get a good surface for whatever we choose.  The adhesive for the previous stuff is pretty yucky, so luckily I have recently developed some skill the drywall-mud-spreading-and-smoothing.  We’ll keep it as-is for now with just paint as the backsplash, as we weren’t quite ready to make the big purchase of countertops (but had to jump on the very last before it was gone!)

So all-in-all, we love the new countertops, the beautiful new sink (which I am so happy that we went with a single vs double sink), and the lack of bar top (I love the huge expanse of countertop to work on!)

That’s our big change for the month, I’m wiped out!


EggHeads among various miscellaneous things April 8, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — nearlyfactotum @ 4:28 pm

I’ve been incognito for a while, we had family come for their spring break, Amelia’s birthday, and just a lack of inspiration on my part.  I find I have the best brainstorms while I’m taking a shower, but then I neglect to write it down.  Oh well.  We’ve been extremely happy with the wall color in the kitchen, and have recently been put through the wringer about our countertops that we picked out over a year ago are now discontinued!!!  More on that later.

The other day I was organizing all our our paperwork that I’ve been neglecting and came across the quotes for the bathroom shower.  They were over $7500 for JUST the shower without the glass surround (and their basic tile-hadn’t even picked out anything in particular) which, if you remember, I was able to complete the entire bathroom for just under $5K!  That made me feel pretty good!

Pat’s family has always done EggHeads around Easter.  You blow out some eggs, then make characters.  This year we brought my family into it since they were here for some pre-Easter festivities.











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Whirlwind kitchen redo March 5, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — nearlyfactotum @ 8:27 pm
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DSCN6811Well, not a full kitchen redo, just the wall treatment.  AnDSCN6827d WHOA does it make a difference!

When Pat and I bought the house, we knew we wanted to take down the wallpaper in the kitchen, as it was a little dated, and just wasn’t us.  Now that the master bath is finished, we (I) decided to start this project.  From experience with the wallpaper in the master bath (painstakingly removed) and Amelia’s bath (started to remove then got fed up and covered it with bead board paneling) I knew it was going to be a feat.  I was told by many people to use drywall mud on the seams and edges to seal them, sand it out, prime it with Kilz (oil-based and odorless), then paint.  Well, it worked like a CHARM!  I looks great, if I do say so myself!

DSCN6864First, taking down the art, blinds and window treatments made the room look big (it is a large room anyway, with high ceilings too) and then whenDSCN6876 I started mudding it then priming, it just kept getting bigger!  I ended up painting all the trim work as well, as there were some small issues, and I wanted the top edges of the wallpaper sealed at the ceiling too.

Priming and painting was a breeze, slightly time consuming with all the edging.  I still have to paint the ceiling, but I don’t want to do that right now.  We chose a color that was in the white section, but has a blue tint.  It goes well with the cabinets currently, and should go with the cabinet color


and countertop we eventually think we want to do.  This is another room we plan on doing in stages, but we’re content at letting it sit in its current state for a while.

There were a few steps I didn’t mention: cutting out the sections of wallpaper that were peeling up or bubbling, and removing some of the laminate from the wall with a heat gun to prepare the wall for paint (that section of wall needed two sessions of mudding and sanding.)  All in all, the project was about 5 days start to finish, and pretty easy on the pocketbook.  I was able to work pretty much all weekend on it, thanks to Pat watching Amelia.  I was surprised just how easily DSCN6877working the mud was, it took a little practice, but being that I’ve iced  many cakes, this was easier to get a smooth finish.

I must say, we are quite happy with the results.  The mudding is another skill I’ve learned and and happy to say I shouldn’t have lost sleep deliberating on how to do it.  The hardest part is starting the project, but now that it is done, why’d it take me so long to tackle it?!?


And thank you to Uncle Ron, who was the initial person who recommended using the drywall mud to seal the edges and seams!



And on to the kitchen! February 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — nearlyfactotum @ 10:17 am

DSCN6820That was a really short hiatus from finishing the bathroom to starting the kitchen work.  As you know, we are working on selling the TX house, and still no news on that.  We now want everything in this house squared away just in case we have to leave in a year.  No more year+ jobs.  And since I have already “tested” the wallpaper to see how it was installed, we can’t just leave it.  And unfortunately, it was installed directly onto the drywall without the wall being primed (same thing for both bathrooms), but this time I am doing a different technique.

In the master bath, I painstakingly removed every bit of wallpaper, taking some drywall at times.  In A’s bathroom, I started doing it that way again (then remembered just how horribly awful it was), and decided to just cover it up with beadboard panels.  With the kitchen/dining area (obviously the largest area) I am doing it an altogether different way.  The wallpaper is installed EXTREMELY well: very good edges and very few bubbles.  Fortunately, this third method is supposed to work well for this instance.  Several people (including a dear uncle, employees at the Home Depot and Lowes, contracters in the aisles AND a drywall installer) all recommend using drywall mud on all the seams to seal the edges of the wallpaper.  Followed by Kilz (an oil-based b/c water based can seep into the paper making it peel-fortunately there is a no-odor oil-based Kilz) and then paint.

I mudded for two days, sanded yesterday (and like Amelia Bedelia, I dusted the house) and hopefully the DSCN6827weather will get a touch warmer over the weekend so I can get a cross-breeze and get the Kilz on the walls.  I’m cautiously optimistic on how it’ll turn out.  The walls are super-smooth, so I’ll have to get an eggshell finish (I think) to not have imperfections show up like crazy.  Or possibly get some of the add-in texturizer for the paint.  We’ll see, I haven’t quite figured that part out yet.  The smooth walls just might look great, but there are options just in case it doesn’t.

It’s amazing how big the room looks without anything on the walls and the curtains down.  Looking forward to see what it looks like with crisp, clean walls!


Birding hobby or just admiration, either way is enjoyable February 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — nearlyfactotum @ 12:28 pm

I have memories of camping with my family as a young girl and my dad always taking his DSCN6776mini-binoculars on our hikes.  We made a sport of checking out birds at the various places we went.  Fast forward many years, and I enjoy watching the birds in our backyard.  We are so blessed to have such a glorious yard with a variety of birds.  I’ve always enjoyed the birds, but recently I’ve had the desire to bring more in and figure out what species they are.  I feel that birds are an integral part of our well-being, and they can help me if I help them by providing food, shelter and water.  By making them happy in my yard, they will eat my bugs and allow me to use natural means of keeping the bugs out of the garden.  (Side note: my parents have friends who have an orchard at their home  in Virginia-BEAUTIFUL fruit, no bugs/worms.  Their key?  Birds.  They have feeders everywhere and they don’t have to spray either.)  I think it is vitally DSCN6757important for Amelia to respect and cultivate her awareness and interest in the outdoors as well.

I have to thank Amelia for her occasional slow lunch eating for increasing my desire to know more about the birds, versus just watching them.  I bought a simple “backyard birding” book a few months ago, but it barely had any interesting info, basic birds, etc.  So a few weeks ago, Pat splurged on me for a massive bird book.  I wanted a books with photos of male, female, and juvenile birds, also including not just backyard birds, but others as well (as we have a bayou at the rear of the property which brings in even more interesting birds) and more than just a regional look, because who knows where we’ll be someday!  It is huge, definitelDSCN6790y not a pocket field guide.  Oh but it delivers!

A few weeks ago A and I were eating lunch and I decided to write down which birds we had at the feeder during that 45 mins and about how many.  I mush say I was surprised at the variety!  In that one lunchtime we saw (in varying numbers): cardinal, tufted titmouse, goldfinch, house finch, dark eyed junco, white throated sparrow, red winged blackbird, mourning dove, chickadee, common grackle, and house sparrow.  In addition to those lunchtime visitors, we’ve had mockingbirds, robins, blue jays, red headed woodpeckers, hawks (Cooper?), and a few more I have yet to identify (a brown thrasher I think is one, not 100% sure yet.)  And I can’t forget the waterfowl in the way back, including great blue herons, great egrets, ducks, and a few others that I have yet to identify.  We don’t have many ducks, as the nutria are still back there, eating up our shoreline (grrr…)

I find it interesting becoming aware of the habits of the different species.  Chickadees are considerate of other birds by picking up one seed, then flying into the tree, eating it, then going back for more.  Tufted titmouse birds do the same.  The house finch is by far the most ‘selfish’ by staying on the perch and scaring off the other birds.  I’m also noticing how the various species perch, cardinals and juncos only off the ground.  I use sunflower seed, but just bought a suet brick and some mealworm to see if I can get other types of birds into the yard.

I don’t know how big of a hobby this will be, but I know I enjoy it.  It’s time for lunch now, I’ll have my binoculars beside me ready to spot some new visitors!



Shower is Complete, photos included this time February 24, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — nearlyfactotum @ 10:10 pm

Without further ado, here it is!DSCN6818

The shower is glorious!  (Please ignore A’s toothbrush on the counter) I’m nervous to actually admit it, but I think the bathroom is done!  We’ve discussed getting a new countertop and sinks in the scrap area of the granite yard, but I don’t know if we’ll end up doing that.  The counter and sinks are in good shape, a little dated with the shell bowls, but they work and the color matches nicely. Now, on to the next project!! Oh wait, I don’t think I’m supposed to say that once I finally finish one.  But hey, it’s me, and I have my sights set on the kitchen wallpaper.

Now, I will admit to you, I/we’ve been working on this in various stages and I believe I started tearing at the wallpaper in the bathroom when Pat was deployed last year, so it was over a year of gradually doing the bathroom.  It was just under a $5K renovation, and I believe (and I don’t care if I have a jaded sense of worth) that it would’ve cost much more had someone else done it.  Bang for my buck, right?  (please say I’m right…)  There are a lot of things I’ve learned how to do (first tiling job ever), and also learning the easy way after I’ve done it the not-so-simple way.  It isn’t perfect, and I know where some little inconsistencies are, but that’s my little secret.  I’ll let you believe (and anyone who sees it in person) that it is 100% awesome.  It’s hard to remember what it all looked like before (dark, closed off cave of a shower with mildew and water damage) but that’s what photos are for, which I posted a few weeks ago.  Here’s another look at the shower progress from start to finish.

shower progressNow let me go pull up a chair, grab a glass of wine, and admire the awesomeness of the bathroom.  Oh who am I kidding, I’m going to go take a hollywood shower.