Category Archives: making do

The Easy $13 DIY Laundry Shelf

Easy $13 DIY Shelf from This American House

Following up on the upcycled vintage hooks, I wrapped up another easy DIY project that had been sitting on the back burner for a number of months. We needed a simple shelf to hold laundry supplies at the city apartment and having worked with plumbing pipes and cheap wood once before, I knew it would be an effective solution for this problem spot too. And that’s how I created the $13 DIY shelf.

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Use Everything: DIY Dried Vine Wreath


This house has awakened in me a desire to live more simply and responsibly. I’ve developed a bit of a use everything mentality. It’s partly because, unlike our life in the city, I have extra space here at the house that allows me to hang on to things until I can make use of them. We can barely fit our clothes into the closets in the apartment. I’m certainly not going to waste precious space on old plastic containers and other odds and ends. So whereas back in the city I’d throw a plastic container that once contained feta into the recycling bin, I’m much more likely to hang on to it here at the house. (And, by the way, those feta containers have proven to be very effective vessels for paint and stripper!)

Our first fall here at the house I trimmed some of the vines off the carriage house. I didn’t know what I’d do with those vines but it seemed a shame to throw them on the fire pit. Instead, I placed the vines on a hook in the garage and let them dry. Later that winter I made a small wreath by weaving the dried vines together. That wreath now hangs on the front door of our apartment in the city. Just a little piece of the house that welcomes us back to our city home.

Every time I’ve cut back the vines since then, I’ve saved the pieces on a hook in the garage. I’ve amassed quite a stack of vines at this point. And so on the night before my birthday I sat outside and weaved together a large wreath. I found a metal form from a Christmas wreath that we bought from a roadside stand a few years ago (Look at that – recycling again!) to use a base and then wrapped, wrapped, wrapped until I had a big, ol’ wreath.


It’s silly, I know. I mean, like the world really needs another wreath, right? I really could have just thrown those old vines on the fire pit and no one would have cared. Except for the joy that I felt in the hour or two that I spent making that wreath! It was literally joy, folks. Joie de vivre! As I sat outside on a starry moonlit night and wrapped those vines around in a circle, I had a giant smile on my face. (OK, maybe the drinks that were sloshing around in me didn’t hurt.) There I was: working with my hands, turning trash into treasure and satisfying my eternal desire to make things prettier. Nothing could me happier!


I was originally making the wreath to hang on the fence at Christmastime. But we’ve recently had the fence repainted (more on that later!) so the vine wreath would get totally lost. Now I’m thinking the wreath will hang on the fireplace when it’s finally finished. The vines look great against the gray bricks.

How to Make a 1 Dollar Photo Projector

How to Make a $1 DIY Photo Projector | This American House

Back in the old days a couple would return from vacation and invite all of their friends over to their house for a slideshow of the amazing shots of far flung destinations that they the snapped. Drinks would be served and merriment would ensue as the guests would live vicariously through their traveling friends. And then digital photography came along and instead of getting together to see each other’s photos, we simply swipe through Instagram and Facebook feeds. Sure, it’s a little easier, but I miss the social aspect of slide shows.

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Adventures in Stripping: Or Maybe We’ll Paint

Adventures in Stripping: Maybe We'll Paint | This American House

The topic of the house’s woodwork and whether it should be stripped or painted has been hotly debated for months now. The Mister and I have gone back and forth on the issue at least a dozen times. He has a been a proponent of stripping the woodwork from the very beginning. I initially wanted to keep everything painted, but after some cajoling I, too, thought the trim and window frames should be stripped.

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Good Health & Hot Water: Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone

This American House

Friday the 13th hit the dream house like a curse.

First, I’ve been battling a cold that has practically crippled me all week. Instead of working on house projects this week I’ve spent most of my time lying in bed watching episode after episode of Mad Men and sleeping for 12-hour stretches. I’ve probably slept more in the past five days than I have all month. I’ve also polished off two seasons of Mad Men. So, you know, it wasn’t all bad.

To top off the poor health, our water heater seems to be on the fritz. After rushing through a very cold shower Friday morning, I self-diagnosed the water heater issue and then called a plumber. It seems that the pilot light isn’t staying lit and thus the water heater isn’t cycling on to produce hot water. A plumber came by Friday afternoon and, based on my diagnosis, said that the pilot probably wasn’t getting enough oxygen and was therefore being smothered. He loosened some screws on the front of the water heater and said we should be good to go.

Desperate for some relief for my runny nose and chest congestion, I was looking forward to a long, hot shower Friday night. You can imagine my disappointment when I turned the hot water dial and felt the lukewarm water running out of the faucet. It seems that even with the water heater turned up to the highest setting, the one that says, “Warning: this water will scald you skin!” the most I could get was warm water.

I started calling plumbers again Saturday morning, starting with the same plumber who had provided the “quick fix” on Friday. No answer. I tried three other plumbers that I found in the yellow pages of the phone book (how quaint, right?) and still no answer. And that’s when I remembered: we’re not in the city anymore.

Back in the city I would have hundreds of options for plumbers and, while it probably would have been expensive, getting one to come out on a Saturday wouldn’t have been a problem. Out here in small town Iowa, where things are a little slower and options are limited, it’s mostly impossible to get a plumber to come to the house on a weekend day.

While we wait out the weekend we’re taking pioneer baths – boiling big pots of water on the stove, dumping them into the bathtub and then adding warm water until it’s the perfect temperature. There have been lots of Little House on the Prairie jokes while we’ve been doing this. “Ma, tell Laura to bring me more hot water for the bath!” and that sort of thing. Hey, when you’re faced with a difficult situation, make jokes. That’s how we roll anyway.

Image: This American House