Monthly Archives: March 2010

How to Build a Composter, pt. 1

I’m not going to say we’re experts on this, but I think this just might work. We’re gardening this summer, and we wanted to put our garbage and produce scraps to work making our garden really take off. So, we decided to compost our vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, and eggshells not only to cut down on our landfill contributions, but also to give our plantings a boost. In order to contain the compost in our small backyard, we needed a compost bin.

We started out with a 32 gallon trashcan we picked up at the hardware store on sale for only $10. It’s vinyl, so it should be really durable and easily workable.

Our eventual plan is to mount this garbage can on a horizontal rod a few inches above the ground, so that we can tumble the compost inside by spinning the garbage can on its axis. But, for now, we’re going to get started as is.

Compost needs plenty of air in order to break down to the dark, earthy compost needed for gardens. In order to get this without attracting animals to our rotting food waste, we decided to drill some holes in the sides.

We drilled 1/4 inch holes throughout the walls of the garbage can, about 40-50 in total. If we need more later, we can always go back in and drill extras.

Finally, I drilled a 1 inch hole in both sides in order to hold the horizontal support rod in the future.

Compost also needs sun, so we’ll have to take the lid off the can occasionally to allow it to soak up the rays. The lid also locks on, which will be important when eventually tumbling it.

We also found this website helpful in learning what should and should not be composted as well as more local concerns. Soon, we’ll add the horizontal rod and support system and update this post.


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Vintage Tennis Racket Earring Holder

On the inside of my closet door. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for this one; I did find it somewhere on a blog or magazine, but I can’t remember where.

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Local Greenie: Jubilee Furniture

We’re certainly not the first to mention this great used furniture store in the Chicago burbs. It’s been reviewed here, here, and here, to name a few spots, but it’s so great that we thought we’d spread the word a little as well.

Jubilee Furniture is an outreach of…well, Outreach Community Ministries. It’s a resale shop with tons of old furniture, lamps, and minor appliances (tvs and that sort) that benefits their many efforts in the western suburbs.

The great thing is they have tons of furniture for super cheap. Lots of brand name items (it IS in Wheaton), midcentury finds, and office furniture. If you’re local, you should definitely check it out. It’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays. And they have a blog where you can see some of their recent acquisitions.

We picked up this great dresser that we use in our dining room. And it was only $40! Don’t let the blog fool you – they have tons more stuff in the warehouse, and if the pics in the blog aren’t your style, there’s lots to choose from.

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Affordable Patio Tables

The sunnier the days get, the more excited we get about utilizing our backyard to the fullest this spring and summer (and hopefully into the fall). You’ll remember we’ve been working on some plans for back there, and it’s slowly coming together. Our seedlings are doing well and will be ready to transplant in another month or so. We’re also planning to have a small seating area just off the back door to the house. It’s only going to be about 6 feet by 6 feet with a rounded edge. Just big enough for the two of us to enjoy our morning coffee or an evening burger.

We already picked up four of these folding chairs last summer. They’re very inexpensive ($20), foldable, so we can put them away in the garage for the winter, and small – perfect for our tiny backyard.

Now, we just need a small side table to go with them, so we’re on the hunt. The only criteria are that it be pretty small and easily movable (nothing affixed or concrete) and cheap. Here’s what we’ve got so far. All of these are under &75 with the majority being under $50:

 That’s the IKEA Tarno table.

Pros: At only $19.99, it’s one of the cheapest of the bunch. It folds easily, so it could hang on the wall when out of use, and the thin metal legs give it an even lighter profile.

Cons: It’s IKEA, and it’s only $19.99, which might not translate into the most quality of patio furniture items. It could be light enough to blow over in a heavy breeze, which Chicago is definitely known for.

The other IKEA pick: IKEA Lindved table

Pros: Also only $20. That lower shelf thing could house a plant. Could be painted a brighter color.

Cons: Not actually an outdoor table, so I’m not sure if it would hold up or not. It’s metal, so it could be painted with Rustoleum to ensure it won’t rust.

Garcon Rolling Bar Cart from CB2

Pros: Already comes in a fun color. On wheels, so could be easily moved and used elsewhere. Two levels for added space.

Cons: The price – it’s the most expensive of the bunch at $69.95. Could go on sale, though.

Side Canyon Table

Pros: Aluminum construction means it’s lightweight and durable. Folds for storage. Only $27.97. Great metal finish could be cool next to wooden chairs.

Cons: The picture’s a little unclear. It’s hard to tell whether this would be durable or not, and since it’s not carried in a store, we wouldn’t really know until we had it shipped home.

Outdoor Tray Table from World Market

Pros: Cheapest tray table I could find at only $40. Tray top removes for bringing things in and out of the house.

Cons: All wood construction could be a little boring with the chairs.

Lattice Top Side Table from Urban Outfitters

Pros: Probably my favorite one. It’s only $38, too. Nice yellow color. Folds.

Cons: I’m not sure – maybe bad construction?

So, that’s what we’ve come up with so far. Who knows what route we’ll actually go. We’re big fans of just finding something with a good shape and adjusting it to make it fit our needs. We might just end up with an old side table painted in a bright exterior paint color. I think I’d be okay with that, too.

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How to Repair a Broken Window

Eleven windows in our house had cracked or broken windowpanes when we moved in. Eleven! In fact, most of those are still broken, because we didn’t get that far down on our to-do list before winter hit, and then it was just too cold to repair them. We did what anyone would do – put a couple of strips of packing tape over the cracks and wait for spring. Now that spring has sprung (sort of – it did snow here on Saturday), it’s time to peel off the tape and fix those broken panes for good. Or at least until a neighborhood kid throws his baseball through one (ala Dennis the Menace).

Luckily, we do know how to fix these as we did a lot of repair to broken storm windows last fall. We have the old removable storm windows that are much like an extra window you just attach over your others for the winter. They’re removable in the summer for increased airflow. The beauty of these old storm windows and wood framed windows is that they’re made to last. Yes, they might break and the counterweights might get stuck, but they’re made to be repairable, unlike many of the vinyl windows on the market with about a ten-year shelf life.

Things you’ll need for this project:
• A broken window (obviously),
• Chisel or Paint Scraper (a standard screwdriver might work as well),
• Window Putty,
• Glazier’s Points,
• Window Glazing tool (helpful, but not absolutely necessary. You can get one of these at any hardware store for around $5, though, so I’d recommend it),
• New glass cut to size,
• Primer and Paint (to match the window frame) OR linseed oil, if you’re working on an unpainted window frame.

So, before you can fix the broken windowpane, you’ll have to remove the old one. Glass panes are affixed to wooden windows with window glazing. The exterior rim of the window is trimmed with a putty-like substance that, when hardened, holds the window glass in place and makes the window airtight. It’s the glazing that has to be removed, then, to get the pane out. You can either chip away at the glazing with a chisel or paint scraper or use a heat gun to soften it a bit before prying it away. We tried both methods, and frankly either one seems fine, as long as you’re not trying to salvage much of the broken windowpane. The heat has a tendency to crack the glass even more, so be careful if you’re using this method. I’d recommend wearing tough leather work gloves to avoid cutting yourself. It’s helpful to start at the edge of the glazing that directly touches the wooden window frame. That way, you’re not applying as much pressure to the glass and have a lower chance of cracking it.

Once all the glazing is removed from the rim of the windowpane, it’s almost ready to come out. You may notice several small metal pins holding the glass in place. These are called glazier’s points, and they do just that – hold the windowpane in place. They’re there to hold the glass steady while the putty dries, creating the lasting hold. These should be removed in order to get the glass out. You can usually pry these loose with your fingers, but you may need some pliers or the flat end of a screwdriver in order to get them out. Generally, there’s only a couple of these per side of the window, depending on how large the windowpane is.

After the glazing and glazier’s points are removed, the glass should come out fairly easy. There may be a small amount of dried glazing on the other side of the glass holding the glass to the wooden frame, but you should have no problem pulling the glass loose from that. If the glass happens to break here, just go back and chisel out any remaining bits.

You’ll want to make sure to chisel out all remainders of the glazing after all the glass is removed to ensure that the wooden frame is completely free of glass bits, glazing, and glazier’s points. You can use the same tool you used to loosen and remove the glazing the first time for this. A stiff wire brush might also be helpful to ensure your wooden frame is as smooth as possible.

After the glass is removed and all the loose bits of putty and debris are gone, you’re almost ready to install the new windowpane. First, you’ll want to make sure to prime and paint the edge of the window frame on which your new glass pane will rest. If you’re working with an unpainted window, linseed oil should be used instead. This seals the wood and keeps it from sucking all the moisture out of the putty you’re about to put down.

Once the inside edge is primed and painted, take a small amount of window putty and roll it into thing strips about the size of a spaghetti noodle. Then, push the “noodle” of putty into the window frame. This will serve as a sort of cushion for your new glass pane. You’ll have to knead the putty first to make it pliable, but this part should be fairly easy.

After the putty is laid down, place your new pane on the window frame and press down to ensure a tight and accurate fit. If all looks well, you’re ready to install glazier’s points to hold the pane in place until the putty is applied. Push one glazier’s point alongside the windowpane into the frame approximately every six inches or so around the pane, depending on how large it is. Our window frames were about 24 by 26 inches, and we used three to four per side. They can usually easily be pushed into place, but you may need the flat end of a screwdriver and a hammer to push them in. Be careful, of course, as you wouldn’t want to break the glass at this point.

Finally, install the putty around the rim of the windowpane. Take small globs of putty and knead them in your hands until they become pliable and soft. Then, roll them on a clean surface (you can use another sheet of glass or even the windowpane your working on) until they’re approximately pencil-sized. This will take some practice to get the right size, but depending on how many windows you’re repairing, you’ll soon get the hang of it. Then press the putty around the rim of the glass. Smooth out the putty using the glazing tool (if you have one) or a putty knife/paint scraper. You’ll want to create a beveled edge. Continue smoothing it until you have a nice slanted edge to your putty.

Lastly, allow the putty to dry according to the directions. This could take several days, so be patient (that’s why you used glazier’s points). Once it’s dry, paint over it to match your window frame, and you’ve got a new window!


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Phone Book Opt Out

We got another new phone book on our front steps yesterday. We’ve not even been in our house a year, and this makes at least two phone books we’ve been delivered. The first one I stuck in the top drawer of our end table in the living room because…well, because that’s what you do with them, right?

But we haven’t used it even once since it’s gone in there. Anytime we need a phone number, we just do a quick internet search, like most people of our generation, and we can get more info than we’d possibly need on the place. Plus, we can do a search for all nearby similar locations, which, in my estimation, at least, pretty much makes the hardbound yellow pages obsolete. Apparently a lot of other people feel the same way, because in our previous building – a larger apartment building – phone books would go piled up in the entryway for weeks before someone finally gathered them all up and either trashed them or recycled them (hopefully the latter).

I just found out about a way to opt out of phone book delivery. I don’t know why that never occurred to me before, but it seems fairly simple. Just go to this address, type in your information, and you can opt out of having the phone book delivered to your door. Hopefully this works; at least, of course, until we need the phone book to make sure future children can reach their plates at Thanksgiving dinner.

image from jbwutx’s flickr stream.

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Inspiration Pictures

One of the things we started doing right after we knew we’d be buying our house was to collect inspiration pictures in a Google Notebook (a great tool apparently being phased out). We knew we’d have a lot of work to do, but we also knew that meant crafting each room exactly to our liking. Recently, I was looking back through some of the images and was struck by how similar some of our projects turned out to be.

For instance, we picked these for our kitchen:

And here’s what we came up with:

From the all-white cabinets and beadboard to the schoolhouse light fixtures, it’s funny how much actually translated into our final product.

And here’s a few of our inspirations for the living room:

And here’s our living room:

We really liked the neutral colors in the top two pictures, the framed photo groupings and the good use of black, and we tried to carry those things over into our space, too.

Finally, a picture that inspired our bedroom change:

And our bedroom:


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