For the Love of Gaffers Tape

This project has been simmering for about 6 weeks now. I am still contemplating the colors and layout.
This is the little closet with the yellow door that is under the staircase on the main floor. I also plan to stripe the ceiling. Yes, I'm striping the whole thing, it's going to be crazy, which is ok because it's only a closet.

I'm using real gaffers tape. I found a good relatively cheap source on line. It's really nice to work with because it is cloth and you can rework it and move the strips around. It is not at all plastic-y like duct tape. I'm thinking I should add some red or kelly green and possibly nix the royal blue (it looks like painters tape).

Any thoughts?



Guess what? I actually won! My shed won Best Amateur Office space on Remodelista.
A huge, huge thanks to everyone who took the time to vote. Some of you voted every day and for sure carried me across the finish line. I could scream, I'm so happy! I have always admired Remodelista so I feel extra lucky to have my work featured there.  You can see the whole story here

Cheers and thanks again :)


How to Build a Picnic Table: Part Two

Earlier this summer, I posted about this picnic table base that I built, but left a teaser about the concrete top. Well, here it is finally completed.
I chose to go with concrete because I wanted something that would look good and weather well. I considered zinc or copper, but this table is located in a very sunny location and I was worried about it being too reflective.

My main concern about concrete was the weight. I didn't want this table to be un-moveable and anyone who has ever hauled a bag of quikrete knows how heavy that shiz is.

To keep the weight down, I poured and troweled a thin layer of concrete on top of a 1" plywood base. This is 3/8" thick, which is the minimum thickness that the quikrete countertop mix calls for. This mother is still heavy -the top is 30x96", so it required one and a half 80 pound bags or 120 pounds in concrete alone. I chose not to use any reinforcement and I'll go into that in a minute. 

I used cedar 1 3/8" lath to create a boarder around the plywood top, which was already screwed to the table base. I was hoping that the pieces I used for holding in the concrete would survive the concrete pouring process and not need to be replaced with fresh pieces so I took extra care in their placement.

I also blue taped everything and tarped over the base. Good thing too, because the whole pouring and troweling thing is a messy, frantic process.

My personal experience with quikrete is that it requires a lot more water when mixing than the directions say. This was the case here and also when we poured a bunch of slabs as door stoops. We used one of those mixing whisks on the end of a drill and a shovel, and mixed one bag at a time. Oliver mixed the second bag while I was troweling. I didn't use any color pigment so mixing one at a time was ok.

I don't have a picture of the first part of our pour because it took both Oliver and I to tackle this. After lightly moistening the plywood with a spray bottle of water, dump a mound of concrete onto the surface. Wetting the plywood prevents it from sucking moisture out of the concrete. Lay a long board on top of the slab framework (in our case those slats) and draw it side to side while spreading the concrete. This levels the concrete and gives it a relatively even thickness.

After that, trowel like mad. It's ok to spray the top a little with water to help in troweling but don't use too much or the texture of the concrete will change. 

I was able to trowel for about an hour before this set up and I was working in the sun.

Unfortunately the blue tape didn't really work. The shuffling of the leveling board chewed it up so I ended up having to redo the cedar border.

Now back to that reinforcement issue....Yes the top cracked. I'm not entirely sure why this happened and whether some chicken wire embedded in there would have helped. Two things happened here. First, the plywood sheet warped. In the back of my head, I knew that I should have sealed the underside of the ply with paint to help with this. Any wood (even ply) will dry and move unevenly if one side is sealed and the other is unfinished. It just has to do with how it is absorbing and releasing moisture. So the plywood base warped away from the concrete and then (the second probable cause) Kit was using the table top as a diving board for the trampoline. 

Anyhoo, next came patching those cracks. I used Quikrete patch compound which worked great for filling the cracks but the color match wasn't great so I had a small problem. 

 It looked like I was going for a faux marble job. Yuck!

So I skim coated and lightly sanded the entire top twice to even out the color. I watered down the product pretty heavily to do this but the adhesion was still fine.

After about a week of drying time, I sealed with Cheng's water based sealer which is also food safe. 

I would have liked to not have had to seal the concrete at all (I've come to realize I don't really like overly shiny concrete) but I think staining would have been a big problem. The sealer I used is a satin finish so it's sealed but not too plastic-y.

This has been a hugely satisfying project. I just love this table. This table was built with only a chop saw and a drill press for major machinery. 

Up next are benches which I'm having a hard time deciding on the design. I think I'll build again in cedar but am still unclear on everything else design wise.

I hope this inspires someone to go out and build something!


Getting At Least One Thing Done

I have been working on a handful of projects around the house lately which are all in a state of half completion. This kind of drives me nuts, it makes me feel scattered.  The other morning I cranked out this little fix for a little instant satisfaction.
A while back, like at least 4 months ago, my neighbor gave me this passion flower vine and the lattice from her yard.  I transplanted it into a big pot on the roof and hacked it back to a nubbin eons ago.

This project was precipitated by the fact that the vine is taking off and starting to bloom.  Those little curly tendrils will grab anything and were starting to grab onto the jasmine next to it.

I trimmed down the two lattice pieces to fit the space and nailed them up. I had to hang the top one backward to get it to fit snuggly to the shingles but once the vine grows no one will be the wiser.

The very sad large pot in front is a project for another time.  It was/is full of succulents and was once very beautiful. Over time, the dirt has compacted so the plants sit way too low in the pot now and it has been invaded by oxalis, which is impossible to weed out between the tightly packed succulents. Curse you, oxalis! I'm going to have to take everything out and carefully remove all the weed roots and replant. 


Summertime is for Salads

Summer is the time to eat lots and lots of salads. A few years back, Mark Bittman wrote an excellent piece for the New York Times in which he profiled 101 simple summer salads. His list of salads encourages winging it on ingredients and it has some great combos of fruits and veggies that I'd have never thought of on my own. Have a look, you'll love it. Here are some of my standbys that we've had lately. Produce is at its peak right now, so I'm going to revisit that list myself!

 Tomato and watermelon with basil and red onion.

 Tomatoes with Stilton with grilled figs on the side.

 Corn salad with tomatoes, cilantro, red onion and lime.

Straight up tomatoes with basil and olive oil.

Caprese salad and oranges with red onion, basil and olive oil.

Got a good source for summer salads? Send it my way.


R.I.P. Picnic Table

You know how Oliver and I recently built a replica of our very decrepit picnic table? Well, today was the day to put her to rest.
We had a strange attachment to this table. As I mentioned before, we got it on craig's list from an older couple who had built it themselves. When we moved into our new house, we searched high and low for a picnic table that had some soul. All those teak sets, though beautiful, didn't feel right -we wanted something much more unique and laid back for the yard.

So when we found this for 20 bucks, we were elated. It was already pretty dilapidated when we bought it, but it looked great and had a story. And the couple selling it were happy to have someone take it out of their yard, the thing weighs a ton.

I take a lot of photos for my blog on this table because it has such a great patina. The problem was that the entire structure of the table was rotting. The whole thing sort of moved when anyone sat down on the benches.

So we thought we would try to salvage as much of the wood as possible.

 Ethan helped me with the demo, which took about an hour.

A couple people commented last week about how nice my yard looked, but here it is in its white trash state of mind. Gotta love the nasty coolers strewn about (yes my refrigerator died again the week before last and those have been living in the yard since), plus the tipped over tent adds a special je ne sais quoi :)

After we pried off the top, we realized that most of the rest of the table was rotten and termite infested.

 So our salvage pile is a lot smaller than our burn pile.

This may become an Ocean Beach bonfire depending on how motivated my pyro 16 year old is...


Remodelista Best Office Space Finalist

Remember when I converted the shed in my yard into a work space?
Well to my delight, the space is one of five finalists for the Remodelista Considered Design Awards best amateur office space ! 

Please take the time to head on over to Remodelista and vote and please do pass on the word. I know it is kind of tacky to ask but because you can vote more than once this could become a bit of a popularity contest and I could use all the help I can get on that front :)  The link to vote is here.

If you missed my post on the shed redo the first time around, you can find it here.



The bougainvillea in my yard is about to achieve its full summer regalia.
These vines are going on seven years old and are getting quite hardy.

The east side vine is a little ahead in bloom of the west side one.

This year I pruned back the bushiness at the bottoms so they don't cover the front of the windows on either side of the doors.

We're in a drought here in California so I don't water my lawn at all which is why it is completely brown, however I do have these feather grasses which are naturally spreading and taking over. I love them, it makes the yard feel all scrubby and wild and beach like.


How to Make Rat Barriers for Backyard Fruit Trees

If you've been following my blog for some time then you will know that I've been fixated on a few things over the years: the apple trees in my yard and rats. Yes, rats. You can see some of my hopeful posts about my little espaliers here, here and here and some of my more bitter posts about rats here and here. Well, it's that time of year when these two obsessions converge. 
You see, I have a pretty decent crop of apples… and I have signs of rat activity in the yard. That's a big rutrhoh. Last year when that happened the apples dwindled down to nothing. It was so sad.

So this weekend, I built these little rat defender cones made from flashing for some of my trees. I got the idea for this here

The process is like building a lampshade. I roughly eyeballed my dimensions on the back of some wrapping paper, 

and traced it onto the flashing. It is just your basic aluminum flashing that came in a roll. I forgot to take note of what gauge it was, but it cut easily with my metal sheers.

When cutting a tight circle in flashing, it helps to cut a relief line first and always use gloves, that s%*# is sharp.

These really need to be attached with some zip ties but I'm out and that will require a run to the hardware store. The cone length is about 10" long, which I hope is enough. I think the slipperiness of the metal and the awkward angle is really what makes this an effective system. The cone is held together with some machine metal screws and nuts.

The next thing I did was build these barriers along the wall against which the espaliers sit. There is a concrete ledge there and vines on either side of the trees that provide another way onto the espaliers if you are a sneaky rat.  

Basically I just nailed a 14x28" piece of sheet metal along the concrete lip so that the rats can't traverse the wall onto the trees if they climb the vines on either side.

I used these really tall cylinders for the two little free standing trees. They are made out of some scrap zinc. I may also add a reverse cone to the top of these because I'm not entirely sure they are slippery enough to deter climbing.

I'm not really sure why there are so many rats in my yard aside from the fact that it is the city and almost all of the yards on my square block are very lush, which I hear is what they like. And clearly there are not enough cats… Meow :)

p.s. Getting a cat has been a big topic of conversation in our house. My husband used to be allergic but may not be anymore, but we're not 100% sure. We need to test drive a kitty.

Anybody out there got some other tips for this problem? I'd love to hear.