DIY Touches of Christmas

Tis the season of hope and the busiest time of year.  Between holiday traveling, gift buying/wrapping, holiday parties, school events, cold weather, and the usual daily chores, there’s a lot going on.  What should be the most wonderful time of the year can, in reality, become the most stressful time of the year.  Keeping our holiday decor simple and focused is a way I help eliminate some stress.


Limiting the decorations to our living and family rooms, we have the holiday cheer, without an excess of clutter or decor to store the remaining eleven months of the year.


Following the same process as last year, I designed and hand painted a holiday sign to lean on our mantel.


In place of a festive quote, I came up with a Christmas Tree sale sign.  If you like the design, download this .pdf to print your own to display or use as a template to make your own sign.


Simple trees fill in around the sides of the sign with our railroad spikes turned stocking holders.


Clearly I have a love for green throughout the year, so I took the opportunity to upgrade to new stockings.   Bringing the plaid down, I covered the chair pillow forms in left over fabric from the boys’ bedroom revamp.


The green plaid tree garland from last year fits in perfectly.



As for the living room, our tree proudly stands in the center window, in full street view.


In addition to the yearly silhouette ornament of the boys, our tree is decked out with home-made ornaments based on our summer travels.  Montana, of course.




Our neighboring state to the east that we make many drives through, North Dakota:




Jackson, tied with a ribbon from our tram wristbands:


South Dakota, though George Washington looks a little Hitler-esque with the nose shadow:


What is your holiday decorating approach?  Do you stick with a theme?


DIY Board and Batten, Step 1

In the last pool house update, I shared all of the details on the guts inside our walls: insulation, electrical, and a little bit of plumbing.


With all of that important, but generally unseen business taken care of, we are able to start hanging our vapor barrier and sheeting.


To create the board and batten look, we’re using exterior grade A/C (one side is good A grade, the other a lesser quality, C) plywood as our base.  After, thin (1 1/2 to 2 inches wide) strips will cover the seams and nails.


Before installing, Ben meticulously measures all obstructions, then transfers the measurements to the sheet before cutting the sheet to fit.  Once cut, I hold the cut sheet in place, about an inch off the floor to prevent the plywood from wicking up water that will be on the floor.  A quick nail into a visible stud helps hold the board in place while we mark the stud placement across the panel.  Obviously, nailing into the stud is necessary to securely hang the sheet on the wall.  But it also ensures the nails will be hidden beneath our spaced batten strips.  Marking is made quick with an eight foot level and pencil.


More nails along the pencil lines keep the panel firmly in place.


Installing the sheets isn’t difficult, just time-consuming thanks to the many necessary cuts around outlets, windows, and doors.  Particularly the kitchen wall, which had as many as seven cuts around objects in a single panel.  Careful measuring and marking of the sheet before hanging is crucial to keep the sheets as seamless as possible.


Knocking out the most intricate pieces first makes the rest of the sheets feel easy by comparison.


We’re continuing, working our way around.  In an effort to prevent as much waste as possible, we’re cutting pieces in strips to avoid big, unusable chunks taken from the windows.  The gaps below will get filled in with left over pieces cut from other areas like doors.


Essentially, we’re putting together a big puzzle, looking at each piece and how to best use it.  It might not look like much yet, but this is similar to the drywall phase of a project.  It’s the turning of the corner from “unfinished construction” toward “beautiful, finished room.”  Because the batten strips will terminate into the baseboard, we’ll have to tile the floors after hanging all of the sheeting.  Big, exciting things coming up!

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.