Thursday, December 6, 2012

How to revamp your old patio furniture … for PENNIES!


Let’s have a little test to see just how ghetto I am (and you are):

Raise your hand if you have rusty old patio furniture in your back yard???

Now. Raise your hand if you have been thinking for months (possibly YEARS), “Dude. That rusty old patio furniture is GHETTO! I need to drag it off to the dump!” ??? (or, in our case, haul it to the street for bulk trash pick up)

Yeah. We are THOSE people.


I give you … our rusty old porch swing:

spray painted rusty swing17

This little gem is 10 years old, people … give or take. We bought it shortly after getting married. And, it’s been a rusty mess since about 2 years after we bought it.

How rusty, you ask? Well. If rusty could rank in belts, like karate, this swing would be sporting a black belt. No lie. It was so rusty that the rust ate the old rust for breakfast … and then the pole thingys holding up the swing broke … and the swing was just dangling there. True story.

spray painted rusty swing15

This thing was HOPELESS. And every month … about 30 minutes after bulk trash came to pick up, Superman and I would look at each other and say “Crap! We forgot to haul out that piece of junk swing, AGAIN!” We played that game for about … 4 years. At least. (We are THAT ghetto)

spray painted rusty swing16

See all that rust around the bolts in the picture above? Yeah. You do not want to sit on that swing.


One day … I was outside, admiring my glorious view of this rusty old piece of junk and I thought, “Hot dang! I’m gonna make Superman fix that swing, spray paint it, and save myself a quick $150 on buying a new one!”

Poor. Superman.

But, as always … he obeyed.

*** Y’all. Please do not let Superman know that there are prettier, skinnier, taller, and less demanding wives out there. I don’t think he knows that. Shhh.

So. Off he went. To Home Depot. To buy some steel rods … to replace the rust rods. He bought some steel pipe and some nuts and bolts and screws. I have no idea which ones. But, I don’t think it matters because the chance of you having the EXACT same porch swing as us is slim. If you decide to do this to your patio furniture, just measure your nuts, bolts, screws and go buy new ones in the same sizes. Easy peasy.

spray painted rusty swing14

So, he brought the steel pipe home, cut it to the exact right size, then hammered the ends so that they were flat, the way he needed them … and then he reconstructed the swing.
 spray painted rusty swing 10

See? That steel pipe in the picture above is just plain old galvanized steel pipe that he cut and hammered on the ends to make things fit right. The nuts and bolts are new as well. (Ignore the blurry spot in the middle of the picture on these next few pictures … one of my babies apparently got a hold of my camera, and I didn’t realize the fingerprint until today, when I uploaded the pictures. Fail.)

spray painted rusty swing11

After he got everything reconstructed, he took his sander and sanded off as much of the rust as he could. Obviously, it would be impossible to get all of it, but the dude tried hard. Because he is Superman.

spray painted rusty swing12

Then, he put it up on some fence posts, took the seat apart (it all unscrews fairly easily) …

spray painted rusty swing13

And, then … he sprayed the whole thing with a good coat of Rust-Oleum Primer Spray Paint … that stops the rust. And THEN, he spray painted the whole thing with Rust-Oleum Textured Spray Paint in Desert Beige.

And when he was done … and it was all put back together … and my patio was swept off and the 1,546,893 chalk drawings were washed away … the porch swing actually sang to me.

rustoleum spray painted rusty swing3

Dude. Seriously. I can’t even believe what you can accomplish with spray paint. For real. If I ever meet the makers of Rustoleum, I just might kiss them.

 rustoleum spray painted rusty swing4

I am soooo looking forward to reading the news on my phone while sitting on that swing listening to my kids bicker and argue on the swing set. ;)

rustoleum spray painted rusty swing 4

And, I know that we are missing a few bolt covers here and there. And it might not be 100% perfect … but, dude. I don’t even care. For about $30 in materials, Superman literally transformed a wasteland into a beautiful oasis.

rustoleum spray painted rusty swing 6

I love the color and texture. It doesn’t appear to be any different from the original color (which was the point), but the texture is awesome. And, BONUS, Rustoleum guarantee’s their products to be RUST FREE for 2 years! BAM!!

rustoleum spray painted rusty swing1

I can’t decide what I love more: the ‘new’ swing … or my clean back porch. Sidewalk chalk can junk up everything in no time flat.

rustoleum spray painted rusty swing5

And he finished it just in time to celebrate this chilly weather with a s’mores roasting party with our kiddos this weekend.

I can’t wait!

As always, here’s one last side by side comparison:

rustoleum swing before and after

Man. I love Superman. The guy just plain rocks my socks off with EVERY renovation he does. This project makes me want to go hunting/dumpster diving for old patio furniture … that we can hit with a little Rustoleum and turn into a treasure. I’m doing it!!! (Meanwhile, Superman shakes his head … poor guy!!)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Homemade Toys That Last–Hot Wheels Track

Y’all try not to fall over dead from shock and awe that I’m finally posting another project. It’s been a rough 2 months.

That surgery was a total beating. And it compounded a problem that was caused by another doctor’s error. Still broken. Still trying to figure out how to be fixed. So, in the meantime, our projects have taken a MAJOR stand still. But, I’ll still try to post the little things we manage to get done. Sigh.

Well. Christmas is coming. And … four years later … here we sit. Still in a deep recession. And, four years later, here we sit … with life marching on. And kids getting older. And things still needing to get done.

So, I offer you the first (of a few more to come) idea for inexpensive homemade Christmas gifts:

A Race Car Track

(Think: Disney’s Cars … or Hot Wheels … pick your poison)

disney cars hotwheels race track

I’ll be honest. I actually made this 3 years ago. And it’s been through a total beating of my two kids plus multitudes of other preschoolers. And it has held up unbelievably well. And, it’s still the favorite ‘center’ during preschool: CARS.

Here’s all you’ll need:

1/2 sheet (or whatever size you want) of Masonite in 1/4 inch thickness

Some acrylic paint (black, white, green … yellow, if you’d rather draw a double yellow line or yellow dashed line)

And that’s it! We’re talking … $10, all in. MAX. And this track never has to be put together. It never breaks apart. And it seriously stands the test of time. Trust me.

disney cars hot wheels race track 2

I designed this simple little layout. Used a ruler and a sample curved edge (just cut one out of poster board to trace around so all your curves are uniform).

disney cars hot wheels race track 3

Simply draw whatever layout you want for your track onto the Masonite using a pencil. I suggest painting the black road first … then the grassy area surrounding (if you want yours to be dirt road-like, just use some brown instead of green).

disney cars hot wheels race track 4

Once you’ve got the black road painted, get to work on the green … and leave the white stripes for last.

disney cars hot wheels race track 5

All in, $10 … and maybe a couple hours of time, depending on how meticulous your are with your track drawing/painting.

disney cars hot wheels race track 6

In these pictures, I have the track set up on the table, which is how my kids prefer it.

disney cars hot wheels race track 7

However, when I designed it three years ago, I planned on it being on the floor all the time … look at how little they were!!! And, because I didn’t know how to store it when it wasn’t being used, I just had Superman cut the Masonite to exact measurements so that it could slide right underneath that red couch in the picture below.


It is by far the best $10 I’ve ever spent on the kids. As I type this, the two of them are in the other room play Lightning and Sally … 3 years later. Age almost 4 and 6 yrs … and they’re still playing with it DAILY.

I’ve since sold that red couch … so now, I just slide the track behind the entertainment center in the preschool room (you can see it in the background of the first picture above) whenever it’s not in use.

Happy Christmas present making, y’all!! Wishing times were better and we all had a little more to go around … but … instead, we’ll just have to make the best with what we’ve got!

PS- You should be able to buy those little Hot Wheels cars for pretty cheap. The Disney Cars brand cars are a serious investment. Sigh.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Upgraded Rain Gutter Bookshelves

I did something really crazy.

I, I mean Superman, beefed up my, I mean the kids’ bookshelf wall so it’s even MORE awesome.
Feast your eyes:

raingutter bookshelf6

And, in case you can’t remember what it used to look like, here’s the ‘before’:


First of all, I haven’t decided if the Turkish Coffee color is here to stay or not, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the railing above the books. Wanna know why? My punk kids can now put books away without them falling right back off the wall.

There was a flaw in these adorable shelves that we noticed after the ‘new’ wore off them: there was no way to insure that the books on the wall STAYED on the wall.

I complained to Superman. Told him how much I  loved the bookshelf. Didn’t want it to go. But WISHED there was a way to keep the books on the wall.

I had clearly forgotten that I had married a genius.

He instantly recommended that we simply put a rail just above each shelf.


So, here we go. Another attempt at some sort of a tutorial. Yay me! :D

You will need:

* 4” crown moulding in whatever length your shelf will be (this will be the front/decorative portion of the shelf)

* 2” x .50”  board in whatever length your shelf will be (this will be the actual shelf that the books sit on)

* 1.25” x .75” trim board, cut into 2” blocks (these are the brackets that will brace the rail across the wall – you will need 15 of them)

* 1.25” x .25” trim board in whatever length your shelf will be (this is the rail that will go above each shelf)

* 3” or 4” screws

* Nail gun

raingutter bookshelf1

Okey dokey. Here we go.

First of all: do yourself an enormous favor and paint all of the wood to whatever color you want it to be when finished … that way you just have to do minor touch ups when you are finished. Trust me, you do not want to skip this step. We skipped it. Learn from us.

Second, you are going to construct each ‘shelf’ of the wall separately, and then install it onto the wall. There is the shelf and there is a rail. At least, that’s what I am going to call them.

To construct the shelf: Simply measure the 2” board to match the length of the 4” crown moulding; both of which need to be the entire length of the wall, whatever wall you are using. I think Home Depot sells crown moulding in lengths up to 16 feet. That could be fun to get home … but, they sell them. Our wall is just over 10’ long.

Once you’ve got the 2” board cut to the same length as your 4” crown moulding, brace the two together using a nail gun. You want the shelf to sit at the top of the crown moulding as shown in these pictures. Just use your nail gun to shoot some invisible (is that the word?) nails into the front of the mouding, securing it to the shelf portion. Man, I hope this makes sense.

Now that you essentially have the shelf portion put together, you just have to put it on your wall. This also requires your nail gun. Just shoot nails across the bottom of the crown moulding, which will be sitting against the wall. You also want to shoot a few diagonal nails into the back of the top shelf, against the back of the wall. Putty over any tiny nail holes … and then touch up paint when you are finished.

Now, for the top railing above each shelf: Cut each railing piece to the same length as your shelf piece.

Cut 15 – 2” blocks (5 for each railing, unless your shelf is 5 feet or less in length, then you only need 3 per shelf) using 1.25” x .75” trim board. So, your blocks will measure 2” x 1.25” x .75”.

raingutter bookshelf2

Next, find the studs in your wall. Use a block as a brace bracket on each end, in the center, and then one in each stud on either side of the center. Hope that makes sense. Superman used a nail gut to place each bracket onto the rail before screwing the whole railing, including brackets, into the wall.

raingutter bookshelf3

Use a 3” piece of scrap wood at each bracket setting to make sure the railing is installed straight and perfectly level. Also, use 3-4” screws to screw all the way through the rail and bracket and into the wall.

raingutter bookshelf5

Once you have installed all the shelves and all the railings, just caulk or putty over each screw/nail hole and then touch up paint the area.

raingutter bookshelf4

Then you don’t have to tape off every nook and cranny and then re-tape and repaint the wall when you finish painting the brown shelves. Painting these while they were on the wall was a nightmare. Trust me. So, you’re gonna learn from me and not do that, right? ;)

This is a surprisingly simple and super fast project (maybe 3 hours, start to finish) …  Because there isn’t tons of cutting involved. I highly recommend using a spot where you can do wall to wall shelving, like I have done. Then, there aren’t any weird intricate angling cuts trying to finish off the sides of shelving.

raingutter bookshelf6

I can cram about 200 picture books on these three shelves. Not even joking. Because, with the railing there to keep the books on the shelf, I can stack the books 3-4 books deep, one behind the other.

raingutter bookshelf7

These shelves are worth every second of tender loving care you put into them.

raingutter bookshelf8

One last close up of the brackets … you don’t even really notice them at all. These ARE essential. You do have to brace that big long railing several times in between the ends of the shelf. Otherwise, some punk kid is going to put too much weight against the railing and snap the wood. That would just break my heart for you.

So, what do you think? Should I keep them brown? Or paint them back to white?

(I’m leaning towards brown, mostly because they were so frustrating to paint in the first place)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pottery Barn Kid’s Knock-off Table/Train Table–$40!!

Okay. This is a tutorial. Wherein I will attempt to tell you how to create something that I did not in fact create myself. This could be interesting. (New here? Well, I don’t do much … I boss my husband around and he does all the hard work … this makes tutorials sorta tricky)

Here it is … a 4 foot x 6 foot adorable train table that even Pottery Barn would be proud of. :D

pottery barn kids inspired train table kids table $40

Here’s what you need:

* 1/2 sheet of 5/8” MDF (1/2 sheet is 4’x6’, full sheet is 8’x6’) ($10)
* 30' feet of 1.5” x .75” trim board ($15)
* 1 8 foot 3.5” x 3.5” square fence post (you’d think they’d be 4” x 4”, but they aren’t) ($10)
* About 1/2 quart of white oil based ENAMEL paint ($5, give or take)
* A bunch of screws and a few dowels … you may or may not have these lying around. We did.

pottery barn kids inspired train table kids table for $40

So, go to Home Depot. Find a full sheet of 5/8” MDF. Haul it over to the saw and ask an employee to cut the thing in half, so you have 2 4’x6’ sheets.

Grab the fence post and take that to the saw too, unless you just like cutting stuff yourself. Have them cut the post into 4 – 20” pieces for the legs of the table.

Next, grab your trim (Superman used 1.5” x .75” trim) and have them cut 2 – 6’ and 2 – 4’ pieces for you. This will be the edges under the top of the table (you’ll cut/trim them down farther when you get home).

Finally, take home about another 10 feet of the trim, to use for the pieces under the table (as shown in the picture below).

When you get home:
Lay the MDF (top of table) on the floor. Measure in 1 1/4” from each outer edge. Trim the 4’ and 6’ pieces to fit. If you are confident in Home Depot’s trimming skills, you can just have them cut those pieces to be 2.5” shorter (so, 5’ 9.5” and 3’ 9.5”).

After you have cut out those trim pieces, get the drill … it’s time for dowels. Place a dowel in the center of the trim piece and then one on either side of that, centered, on all 4 sides. So, 12 dowels total. Once you’ve drilled the dowel holes, take your table legs and measure pieces off of the remaining 10 feet of trim you brought home. You’ll need 8 – 3.5” pieces, cut with a miter saw at a 45 degree angle, shown in the picture below. You’ll also need 4 – 10” pieces to brace the table leg, as shown. Once you have all those pieces cut out (and make several mistakes and waste a bunch of trim trying to get them all right), you can start assembling.

pottery barn kids inspired train table kids table $40 DIY

Make sure to run some wood glue under the trim piece and inside each dowel. This will give extra support to the table. You are going to screw the legs on as shown in the picture above and below.

pottery barn kids inspired train table kids table $40 DIY tutorial

Make sure to putty over the screws that show on the trim on the outside of the table.

Once you’ve constructed it, sand and round the top edges of the table … and sand the putty areas and any rough spots through out the whole table.

Wipe it down clean removing any dust.

Then, Paint it.

pottery barn kids inspired train table kids table for $40

Superman used an air compressor and paint canister to spray the enamel on. You can use a fine sponge roller to roller it on if you don’t have an air compressor/paint canister.

I think, start to finish, it took Superman about 3-4 hours to construct this. It’s really not a bad project at all; especially when you consider how much Pottery Barn wants for a table that looks almost identical.

Here, see for yourself:

pottery barn table

This is Pottery Barn Kid’s Carolina Play Table, the ‘large’ one (which is still only 45” x 30” x 22”h) and it runs $179.00 before tax. O.U.C.H.

The table Superman made is more than TWICE the size for less than 1/4th the price.

pottery barn kids inspired train table kids table $40

That’s what you call WINNING, my friends. :D

And, I know I’m partial, but I like mine better. The sturdiness of the thick post legs just helps anchor the table, in my opinion.

Wondering what to do with the other half sheet of MDF? Well, you could make a second table, or you could go here ( and make a corner shelf for the TV in your playroom:


Happy table making, y’all! :D

Friday, August 3, 2012

Refinishing a Kitchen Table

Howdy y’all.

I bet you were starting to think that we weren’t really still over here workin’ our booties off, huh?


Well. You were wrong. ;)

And, I know that this blog is sort of annoying because I just show before and after pictures … but … that’s all I’ve got for you today too. See, here’s the deal: the whole step by step tutorial thing isn’t really me because – truth be known – I have no earthly clue how to do this stuff. Pretty much I tell my husband my idea and then he spends days and weeks executing my idea in one way or another.
And … to be honest … I’m afraid of manual labor. I’m not a snob. And I’m not spoiled or pampered or anything. I don’t go to salons. I’ve never heard of most designer brands.


Please hear me when I say this: manual. labor. is. not. my. thing.

Like, at all.

So, in order for me to give you instructions, I have to ask Superman for step by step details and then type them out here. Because there’s no way I’m showing my face in a 110 degree garage unless I absolutely have to; otherwise, I know I’d get roped into my horrible ideas ALL the time.

So, having said that … please no hate mail about how I don’t show you how to do stuff. You hear me, Rebecca? ;)

By now, you’ve all seen my sad, sad, sad kitchen table. If not, feast your eyes:

What these pictures don’t show is all the thousands of nicks. Scrapes. Fork marks. Teeth marks. Rubber cement marks. Sharpe scribbles. And, white rings from eating hot pizza on paper plates (don’t you hate that?!). This table was in BAD shape. (Somehow these pictures hide that nightmarish problem)

Lucky for us, we bought this bonafide Pottery Barn gem off my sister when she moved to a smaller house and couldn’t fit it. That was 7 years ago … and 2 kids ago. And many many preschool students ago. And, lucky for us, Pottery Barn used solid wood on this kitchen table and benches.

So, Superman sanded the entire thing down to the bones. And when I say he sanded, I mean he SANDED. This isn’t a project where you can just lightly rough up the lacquer. He was re-staining and refinishing the table.

And, since he is Superman, he took the entire table and both benches completely apart, sanded them to raw wood, stained them, and then lacquered everything.

He used a Minwax Wood Finish in a Dark Walnut color to stain the table. Then, he sanded all the fine wood hairs until the table was smooth again. Then, he applied one coat of Minwax Tung Oil with GLOSS finish. When it was dry, he sanded everything down with steel wool and applied a second coat. When that was dry, he sanded it all down with steel wool again and went for a third coat. He repeated the process until the table had 6 coats of Tung Oil. No, I’m not joking. The thing shines like glass and looks amazing.

Here, have a looksie:

how to refinish a kitchen table after4

And how much more awesome does my little shelf/bar/munchkin table look with that bangin’ new kitchen table next to it? Way more awesome.

table for five using laminate shelf shelving and ikea chairs

Wanna know how much it cost us to get a new kitchen table and benches? $40. + a lot of dedication, sweat, patience, sweat … sweat … and sweat.

how to refinish a kitchen table after1

For.Ty. Dollars, y’all. Boom. (Ignore the toy dinosaur taking a break on the back bench … I gave him permission)

how to refinish a kitchen table after2

Now kids … what have we learned today? Buy. Good. Furniture. Because your kids are going to beat it to hell … and when they do … you can sand it all down and refinish it for pennies; instead of forking out more money to buy another table for them to trash.

As always, he did a great job! Sorry, my non-tutorials suck. But, y’all can TOTALLY do this. Refinishing a table doesn’t require a ton of skill or finesse or brains or brawns. Like the rest of our projects, you’ve just gotta be patient. Slow and steady wins the race. :D

Here’s the before and after:

how to refinish a kitchen table before after