Thursday, October 23, 2014

DIY Activity Board

Will loves to mess around with various locks around the house and he loves the hardware isle at Lowe's so I've been wanting to make him an activity board for awhile. The main problem with that idea is that you generally need a good amount of wall space and with Will's playroom having windows on all three walls, there is very little, if any usable wall space. 

Luck would have it that once I actually took some measurements, that the space between the base of the interior huge window and the baseboards was exactly the width of a 1x10 piece of wood. And as greater luck would have it, we already had a stained 1x10 hanging out in the garage. Since neither Nate and I knew where it came from, it was deemed the perfect board for an activity center.

We raided our garage and went through Lowe's picking out various locks, latches, springs and bells that we thought Will would have fun playing with and went to work arranging them on the board. Some things got returned and other things were bought, but after some arranging and rearranging, we had a pretty good layout.

Installing and attaching everything proved to be more time consuming than we initially hoped, and I did mistakenly drill into the top of my ottoman (and snapped a drill bit in the process... ) but in the end we had a pretty awesome board for our little guy.

Here's a rundown of what made the cut onto the activity board

Battery operated wireless door chime: We found one on the clearance table at Lowe's (the one linked is a similar version) and to add some intrigue and interest, we mounted the chime on one end of the board and the button on the other end. There is a slight delay in pushing the button and the chime, but Will still thinks it's cool

2 Long Springs: We attached these using eye hooks on both ends so Will can pull on them and they vibrate. I was initially worried about his fingers getting pinched but after some through testing playing, we determined that he couldn't get them pinched.

2 Chain Locks: We mounted one so that the lock slides horizontally and the other vertically so he has a bit of a challenge as he grows.

2 Spring door stops: One is a stiff spring and one is looser but the both boing really well and Will thinks they are pretty awesome... what kid doesn't love these?

2 hook and eyes: These were probably the most difficult to install since they aren't really designed to have both sides mounted on the same board. We actually ended up bending the hook a little so you can still latch it into the eye

3 door latches with swinging doors: One is a security latch, one is a barrel bolt and one is a gate latch and we mounted them on scrap wood that Nate sanded down to create doors. We are planning on mounting pictures behind the doors soon but for now Will seems to just like the fact that he can open and close the doors.

Bicycle bell: this is a BIG hit. The bell we got is designed to go around a bike handle but after a little creative thinking, we got it attached to the board. It has a little lever on the side of the bell that Will can pull down on and it makes a not so annoying ring sound.
Push Light: initially I wanted to try to get an actual light switch with a light but the push light was a safer. Will loves turning it on using his foot.

2 carabiners on chains: We installed large eye hooks near them so he can clip the carabiners on to them.

1 lag bolt on a chain: Once again, eye hook nearby for Will to put the bolt into

1 master lock: The lock and key are each on a chain and the lock can hook onto another eye hook

For all the items on chains, Nate used our new (to us) drill press to drill holes so we could attach the chain and Will can't detach them. We made a point to not let anything be detachable on the board so things don't get lost.

Some of the latches are a little too advanced for Will right now but we love the fact that he can grow into this board and use it for the next few years.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesdays with Will: Lightning Fan Fest

A couple of weekends ago the Tampa Bay Lightning had a fan day. 

Free toddler entertainment + Cheap food = We're there

Besides an unfortunate diaper situation (hence the way too big lightning shirt) we had a great time. This was the first major sporting event we took Will to and it was a great (free) test to see how he would do. He was surprisingly interested in hockey and while we did move around a lot, he still sat for quite some time and just watched. 

They had a great kid zone set up and and while Will wasn't too thrilled with the idea of meeting the mascot, he did walk away with his own little hockey stick and foam hockey puck (which he proceeded to take a bite out of later). 

Overall, it was a great way to spend the day out and about. As an added bonus, we now have a bit more confidence bringing Will to some more sporting events.

Monday, October 13, 2014

How Do You Like Me Now?

We do a lot of projects around here and some turn out awesome and some are... well... not so awesome. So, here is an update on some of our projects.

Terrariums: I loved them while they were alive but I couldn't keep them that way. I may try again but for now they are very very dead... The one pictured above is actually a pretty good Halloween decoration so I might be lazy and not switch it for a couple more weeks.

Refreshing Shower Grout: Still looks great but I think that the I may need to touch up the top of the little seat. It's a tough spot and I really should be wiping it down since it tends to collect water but it's  not happening right now.

Our Board and Batten White Chalkboard: LOVE. This wall went through a lot of stages and now every time I look at it, it just looks right. We use it to write out the meal plan for the week which works really well to help keep us organized.

Using Polyshades on our Bathroom Floor: It still looks brand new. We've had no issues with using the Polyshades and it's still amazing to me how much of an improvement it made to the floor.

Our new sofa: It's not so new now and it has been spilt on, smeared with peanut butter, cottage cheese and various other things and it is so easy to clean. We've had no stains and everything has come off with a little wiping. It's moved around our living room a bit and we love it anywhere it goes.

Finishing the edges of a remnant: It didn't last too long with the original adhesion so I went around and used Stitch Witchery to really reattach it. If I had known I would have to do that, I would have gotten some cool ribbon and used the Stitch Witchery first. It's been holding up really well for the past few months with the redo so I'm hoping I don't have to touch it again.

Our Octagon Table: We love love love this table. We still haven't really finished the inserts for it but the table as is fits our life so well. It's a great conversation piece and I still can't believe somedays that we actually built it.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Little Etiquette Rant

We try to get our current home projects out on Mondays and Fridays. This week it isn't going to happen. Due to some weird events, I'm now teaching an additional 14 hrs a week (not including the extra grading/prep time). Financially it was a great decision for our family but since this was the first week I'm pooped. 

While this change is a big reason for no real post today, the other big reason is that I'm really bummed over Young House Love deciding to stop blogging. I know they are making the best decision for their family, but they were a huge inspiration to the DIY/Home Improvement community and I really don't think it will be the same without them. I've personally been struggling with the way people choose to speak to one another online and based on the comments I read leading up to YHL break last month, it couldn't have been easy to have to read such negativity. I doubt this was the only reason YHL decided to call it quits and it may not even be one of the reasons but to me it does raise concerns about the etiquette surrounding blogs and comments. 

First some facts:
  • Blog content is generally free to the reader
  • Bloggers will place advertisement on their blog and periodically write sponsored posts or sell products to try and make some money (or in a small group, lots of money)
  • The more traffic a blog gets, the more money it can potentially make
  • The reader has the choice on whether they visit a blog, click on ads and buy products
Now some thoughts:
  • Constructive criticism is awesome. If you have a better way of doing something or know of a better product, it's great to spread that info
  • Comments intentionally designed to hurt someone are not productive. If you feel the desperate need to "hurt" a blogger, just stop visiting. If you want to let someone know you don't like something, there are ways to do that without stooping to the point of name calling, harassing or threatening them or their family (which I have personally witnessed on multiple sites and literally makes my blood boil... ask Nate)
  • If you are mad about somebody making money off of you visiting their site, then don't use Google, don't watch TV and stop shopping in stores because it's the same in all venues. You have the choice of what you buy, what you visit and what you participate in. If you don't like something, stop participating. There is no need to hurt others. I'm positive they aren't hurting you by posting about their house projects, workouts or what they had for dinner.
  • Behind every blog is a real live person. Some may blog as a job, some as a hobby, some so they have a community but regardless of why they do it, they all deserve some empathy, respect for putting themselves out there and some understanding when things aren't perfect. 
I know these thoughts will likely invoke little change in the actions of others but I needed to get it out there. Monday we will return to our normal schedule (we're planning a really cool DIY/Science project for Halloween) and I will return to trying my best to ignore the horribleness the anonymity of the internet brings out in people and when I can't, I'll resort to singing Shake It Off in the car with the windows down.

Cue cute pic of Will to lighten up this post:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wednesdays with Will: Cocoa Beach

Back in July, we took our first trip to Cocoa Beach. It was the first time that we made it to a beach on the East cost of FL with Will so it was the first time he saw real waves. Up to this point, Will wasn't too keen on the beach but this time, he was all about it. 

He really liked the waves.


For the most part we stayed in the little waves, but we did head out into the slightly bigger ones for a bit and Will loved it... we've got a true daredevil on our hands.

The beach was great and we were able to get lunch on the pier. Apparently everything is a playground in the eyes of a toddler.

Best part? Totally worn out baby for the drive home. Love the beach curls.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Growing Food in Florida is Weird

It's Fall. Time for pumpkins, cool weather, trick or treating and ... planting your garden ... right?

I feel like I'm still getting used to how things work in FL even after three years here. Last year we didn't plant our garden until late October and while we still got a ton of veggies, certain things (squash, zucchini, cucumbers) didn't make it. We're really supposed to plant near the end of August and we got a little closer this year with everything planted by the third week of September. Almost everything has popped up in the last couple of weeks which is awesome since I used mostly left over seeds from last year.

We are still in a bit of trial and error with gardening so this year we switched to a drip watering system and planted in rows instead of columns. We're hoping this will keep weeds at bay a bit and allow everything to get adequate sun.

So far we have tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, kale, peas, green beans, squash and zucchini up and we are waiting on the lettuce, broccoli and pepper to make an appearance. I might need to go buy new seeds for those if they don't pop up in the next week or so but so far we're really happy with how things are going. We're hoping everything is mature enough by the time we get our first really cold night so that everything survives and we can enjoy fresh veggies all winter!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

TBT Sunroom: Reveal!

Don't forget! Tomorrow is the last day to enter to win a chandelier or rope pulls!
And now for my favorite type of post: Before and After!!

Over the last month we've been going back over how we transformed the sunroom in our first house a few years ago. What started as a bit of rotten paneling turned into a complete gut, tear-down, and rebuild. 

In addition to all of the structural changes, we also did a much better job insulating and we installed some electric baseboard heat. This was an easy way to get the right amount of heat into the new space since it wasn't originally a heated room. It required a separate thermostat, but we were able to get a wireless one so that was actually pretty easy.

We also were able to use the end of this hall as a coat room, since the one in the living room had been turned into the most convenient laundry room ever!

This may have been a small space, but the amount of work it took really brought our skills to a new level. After replacing the exterior wall and building it back we were able to complete redesign this space into something much more useful. It was exhausting just looking back at all of this, but it was a huge moral victory as well!

Do you want to see the whole renovation? Click the links below!