Wood Burned Ornaments

I’m well aware it’s before Thanksgiving (at least, in the U.S.) but I’ve been working hard to get as much of my holiday gifts done early this year.  Last year, in lieu of paper gift tags, I painted monograms on wooden discs to differentiate the contents.  Not only do they look more custom, they double as an ornament.  This year, I’ve stepped up my game with a simple wood burning tool, only nine bucks with the 40% off coupon.  While gathering glass globes for our tree, I found packages of six wooden ornaments, priced at $5.00 but were 50% off.  And the perfect durable, unbreakable blank slate.


I scrunched down the Montana flag design to fit on the three and a half inch disc.  Without a printer at home, I resorted to tracing the design off my computer screen, then cut closely around it.  Carbon paper might not be used often now, but I have a stash in my craft supplies that comes in handy surprisingly often.  Tape the template in place to prevent shifting and unnecessary frustration.



Slip the carbon paper below and use a ball point pen to transfer the design to the ornament below.


With the hot wood burner, carefully outline the design, then fill in.  Go with the grain as often as possible as it prevents juttering of the tip and leaves a smooth, professional looking line.


Not knowing how this little adventure was going to pan out, I didn’t buy any extra tips.  Instead, I used the small round one the burner came with to fill in, leaving behind an interesting texture.


After Thanksgiving, we’ll set up our big tree and start decking the halls.


Until then, I still have a dozen or so tags I want to customize for family, friends, and special events like a wedding or new baby.


Be warned, if you buy a wood burner, you may become addicted.  Are you adding any hand made ornaments to your tree this year?


A Makeover Under $75

In 2013, we took a few days to show the boys’ bedroom a little love.  We started with a blank beige box.


While installing new windows throughout the home, it changed ever so slightly, and I was in the planning process.


When the time came to get serious, I scraped popcorn off the ceiling and smoothed the ceiling out, Ben installed new trim.  Together, we built a pair of beds and painted the walls a fun yellowy green color the boys picked.


For four years, it was a fun, happy room that we all liked.  More recently, it has felt a tad too young for our growing boys, but the main elements were all still a good fit.  Fresh paint, new art, and pillowcases made for a quick refresh that didn’t break the bank.


One look at our house and it’s obvious I love green, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I chose Vintage Vogue from Benjamin Moore to splash on the walls.Boys-Bedroom-Painted-Vintage-Vogue-Right-Side-Vertical

It’s a deep green with a slight blue tone that plays well with the blue rug and blankets; wood tones pop against it.


After the paint was dry to the touch, we moved the furniture, snugging the right bed closer to the dresser to match the left.  Now that our boys are older and we don’t have the worry they’ll roll out of bed, it seemed best to center the beds on the off-center window.  I called the boys in and showed them the updated room and they were thrilled with the color and new bed placement.  At least until bed time, when they asked for it to be moved back against the wall.  So, we’re back at the only layout that works for this room.


Due to the bed placement, same sized art isn’t an option.  Instead, I took inspiration from the theater room art and made two engineer prints, one with each boy nestled amongst beautiful scenery.



To give their beds a fresh look without buying all new bedding, I pulled out two king pillows to fill the width of the bed.  Two striped pillowcases that came with the basement sheets make up the base layer.


I couldn’t find pillowcases in stores or online that I liked, so I stopped into Joann fabric and found a green, black, and white plaid that feels both boyish and updated.  Buffalo check fabric from Hobby Lobby now covers the accent pillow, because it’s just hard to go wrong with buffalo.


Across the room, between the bedroom entrance and the closet, we filled a thrifted printer style tray with Lego minifigs.  The tray is still within their reach, but holds their favorite characters.


First initial letters, a sign picked out at Yellowstone, and a race ribbon are all items that have personal significance to them.  With only $30 and a day spent to clear the room, fill nail holes, tape, edge, and roll, paint always give the most bang for your buck.  Fabric for the pillow cases and accent pillows cost $20 total.  The hanging engineer prints cost about $15 to make both, bringing the total for this room to a whopping $65.

Importance of Insulation

Bit by bit, progress is happening in the pool house and we’re this close to being able to close up all of the walls.  If you’re feeling like we’ve been working on this forever, you’re not alone.  Officially, we started late last year on the ceiling, which was a task and a half.  Though the rest of this room is relatively accessible, the peaks via ladder, we still have dozens of steps to tackle.  And that’s just the walls and the stuff inside.

Creating beautiful rooms is only half the battle.  Creating functional and efficient spaces is the other half.  The far less glamorous, ugly, tedious, and often underappreciated half.  Right now, we’re still in the ugly phase, but hope to create something beautiful soon.

In the five and a half years we’ve lived in this house, the pool never functioned.  Which is a big reason we were able to scoop this house up for the price we did.  Because the pool doesn’t work, we shut off  all the water, hoarded building materials, and never have heated this space.  It’s large, about 1,600 square feet with 14 foot vaulted ceilings.  The majority of the north and west walls (straight ahead and right in the photo below) are concrete foundation due to the steep slope of our lot.

New-House-Pool-Room April 13 2012

When our house was built in the 70’s, it was typical to build a wood framed wall atop the foundation and fir out the foundation with 2 by 2 inch wood strips.  Essentially, there’s a thin sheet of insulation and that’s it.  Actually, you can see a little bit at the bottom of the left wall in the photo below:


I guess what I’m trying to say is, this room as it was before, was about as efficient as a cardboard box.  And what’s the point of having an indoor pool if it’s impossible to heat the space to a comfortable swimming temperature in the cold months?!

To achieve that, we’ve framed in new 2 by 4 inch walls, tucking insulation between the old and new.  Above the foundation, there’s space for another sheet because we’ve eliminated the half wall step.


Our new electrical  runs behind the new studs, then Ben adds another sheet of insulation inside each stud bay.


Each 2 inch thick Polyisocyanurate foam sheet has an R value of 13.  (R value is the resistance of heat flow through a given thickness of a material.)  By doubling, or in some areas, tripling the insulation, we have a total R value between 26 and 39.  Fiberglass batts have an R value ranging from 2.9 to 3.8 per square inch.


Back in 2014, before we installed our new siding, we took similar steps to insulate the exterior of our home.  Then, when we remodeled our basement two years ago, we followed the same steps I described above.  Immediately, we noticed the house maintained temperature much easier, keeping cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

In the pool space, we (let’s be honest, it’s all Ben), have one more section of wall to insulate. We had already completed the front wall, so we took a break from the tedium of insulation to start hanging the 4 by 8 foot sheets of exterior grade plywood.


To complete the board and batten wall treatment, we need a durable backing that can perform in this wet environment.  Hanging the sheets requires marking the 8 inch spacing of the future batten strips, nailing in place where the strips will hide the nails.


Each sheet hangs 1.5 inches above the floor, to prevent the sheets from wicking up any water near the wall.  Baseboards will cover the gap and thin boards will follow the edge of the ceiling.


Another horizontal band will line the room at the 8 foot mark, covering the joint of the sheets.  Something along the lines of this, but you know, real:


As usual, there are many steps we need to take before we can get to that point, so we’ll keep working and I’ll keep you posted.

DIY Halloween Costume Ideas

Each Halloween, our boys tell us what they want to dress up as, and we’ve had adorably kooky ideas throughout the years.  And each year, I do my best to turn their ideas into reality, and this year was by far my most time-consuming adventure.  This year one wanted to be a bag of Skittles, then the other asked to be his favorite candy, a Milky Way.

Skittles Bag

Naively, or stupidly, I thought they’d be quick to make.  I wouldn’t say difficult, but I would say time-consuming.  Drawing the lettering, cutting the felt, then hand stitching on the small details before using a sewing machine for the bigger details all took a decent chunk of time.


And the entire dining table while getting everything ready.


After multiple days of intermittent work, both costumes are completely done, and we have two happy boys.


The goal:

Milky Way Bar

And the reality:


Our Milky Way has a hard time not talking while getting a picture taken, hence the not-quite-a-smile smile.  Ben thought I was certifiable for adding the lettering shadows and the registration mark, but I’ve always cared about the tiny details.

If your Halloween costumes are still up in the air, there’s still time!  Here are our past years of costumes, all DIY, to get the creative juices flowing.  We have a Minecraft Zombie and Steve:


A Lego brick and light switch:


A 9 volt Duracell battery and rain cloud with rainbow:


A Rubik’s cube:


And a yellow Angry Bird:


A stop light (and Thor but he was too blurry):


A credit card:

Credit Card Costume

And finally, baby Hulk Hogan:

Hulk Hogan Costume

Wishing everyone a fun and safe Halloween.  May your kids get plenty of your favorite candy that you can sneak while they sleep.

Planning for Electrical

You may have noticed that we’ve been plugging away on the pool house projects.  It’s far from speedy progress, but so far we’ve covered the ceiling in tongue and groove planks and painted it white. We followed that up by widening the door connecting the main house and pool, tore up the old outdoor carpet, and broke up the original tile.  Other than planning for the pretty finishes for the main space, as well as the bathroom and kitchen areas, we’re still in the ugly, dirty stage of remodel.  Each finished task feels like a victory right now, so wrapping up the additional framing and electrical allows us to move forward to insulating.

Bathroom electrical included installing a new bath fan, venting it to the exterior (and not just the attic space).  Two sconces flank either side of the (future) bathroom mirror.  A horizontal 2 by 4 wall allows us to hide the plumbing in the wall, which was hidden in the cabinet before.


Hidden plumbing is necessary for our open vanity plan:


On the other side of the bathroom wall, the working part of the kitchen has outlets and wiring for under shelf lighting.


The guts are all in place to create this set up:


Directly across from the range wall will be a kitchen seating area, complete with sconce boxes for accent lighting.



Due to the six-foot square skylight above, an overhead light isn’t possible, but we didn’t want to rely strictly on the recessed ceiling lighting.


A 17″ tall bench will line the left and back walls, so our outlets are placed just above, if someone wanted to plug-in a phone or computer in this area.


At the far back corner was an in ground hot tub, but it hadn’t worked in at least 15 years.


Knowing how plumbing can fail, we opted to remove the old tub and instead will replace it with a standalone unit.  A pair of outlets designated for the future hot tub plug-in are at the bottom of the back wall.



Another pair of sconces will softly light this area.  Determining placement was interesting because of the height of the window in this area.


Everything that goes on inside the walls is incredibly important for the function of the room, but are easily taken for granted once closed off.  I’m hoping we can cruise through the insulation installation and start closing up the walls with our exterior grade A/C plywood.  From that point on, progress will be much prettier and far more noticeable.