Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How to Repurpose Household Items or, Reasons to Start Hoarding

After using old wine bottles to make fun water pitchers, I got to thinkin’, what other junk do I have around here that I can upcycle? Of course, I turned to the blogosphere for some inspiration and found some fantastic ideas.

First, I love love love these lanterns made of old vases (you know, the kind we you get from a florist?).

And I do mean you, I’ve only gotten flowers a handful of times. Unfortunately this not so subtle hint will fall on deaf ears because I don’t think Matt reads the blog. Unless I ask him to screen my jokes for cheesiness. And yes, I realize most of my jokes are cheesy. You should see the ones he cuts!

Allison at Its Toile Good upcycled old florist vases into these outdoor lanterns.

twine wrapped vase lantern

How cute is that? The lanterns look easy to make and I love how she tried a couple different styles.

burlap ruffle vase lantern

Please go visit Its Toile Good and see how you can make some for yourself!

Erin at Richmond Thrifter repurposed a Bundt pan into an outdoor tabletop flower pot.

Bundt Pan Outdoor Flower Pot

The detail she added to the outside of the pan is perfect – I wouldn’t have known it was a bundt pan! You can find Erin’s tutorial to make your own here.

Bundt pan flower pot

The last great repurposing idea I found was by Halsey of Spunky Junky. She made this wall art

chevron wall art

From shoebox lids! Halsey shares a simple tutorial so you can make your own.

Don’t they look great? Shoebox lids!

chevron art gallery wall

I love these three projects! Thank you to Allison, Erin, and Halsey for the inspiration.

Have you repurposed any household items lately?

If you were featured today, please grab this button!

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Copper to the Rescue

A few weeks ago Matt fixed the leaky pipes in the bathroom we’ve been remodeling. He learned some good tips about fixing leaks that I thought we should share. I asked him to write up a post about his solution because, well, I didn’t help at all.

Matt shares his trial and error and then we’ll sum up the tricks to make fixing your plumbing a bit easier (So stick with us. We both like to talk.)

Also, please bear with the harsh flash in the pics. I’m just thankful Matt took pictures at all!

Here’s Matt:

We were trying to do some routine plumbing work the other day and as usual, a small project turned into a big one.  The shutoff valves under the sink were not working correctly. They were constantly dripping water and we thought we would spend 10 bucks at the Home Depot and simply replace them. That, of course, was not the case. 

When I tried to re-attach the new shutoff valves, they would not create a waterproof seal.  The rust had ruined the threads on the galvanized pipe.  In some places along the threads the rusty pipe had actually crumbled away.

rusty galvanized pipes

Apparently, galvanized pipes have rust issues.  If you have galvanized pipes, chances are you will eventually have rust issues like the one above and will have to replace them in the future.  Galvanized pipe is not recommended in homes anymore.  When they fill up with rust they slow the flow of water, put rust and color in your drinking water, and eventually become weak and break. 
My immediate thought was to replace the rusted galvanized pipe sticking out of the wall.  But then, I had a nightmarish thought. 

If this pipe is rusted out and cannot create a seal, then the pipe it is connected to is probably rusted out and wont create a seal.  What if replacing the rusted pipe required me to replace the next pipe as well?  And then the next one?  With that logic, I thought we would have to re-plumb the entire house. 

Of course, we did not have to re-plumb the entire house.

Of course, I told my wife we had to re-plumb the entire house.

Back up a couple of weeks ago and we had a rust issue where the main shutoff valve to our house broke, and with the combination of both problems, I was afraid our entire plumbing system was full of rusty galvanized pipes. 
Simply put, the Mrs. was not about to replace our plumbing system.

I tried to convince my wife I could do it “real quick”, but she didn’t have my optimism.  Or, maybe she doesn’t like the idea of going to the bathroom at my parents’ house while I try to figure out how to re-plumb a house “real quick”.  I let her win that battle. 

So instead, we decided to do everything we could to make the waterproof seal between the shutoff valves and the rusted pipe.  We would tackle replacing the rusty pipes another day.

I tried triple wrapping the threads with Teflon tape.

wrap pipe with teflon tape

I tried using plumber’s paste.

plumbers sealant

I even tried using some heavy duty, waterproof, epoxy.  For those who don’t know, epoxy is like an industrial strength super glue. 

epoxy on pipes
Matt staged these pics after he opened up the wall, so we could show the process on my blog. Good husband award!

Still drips!  Now, I was convinced we were going to have to replace the galvanized pipe (and the rest of the plumbing system).  I used my “this is not what I had in mind for a Sunday” speech on Katie, but she wasn’t having it.  Then, just like that, she went off to the mall with her mom for some Mother’s Day girl time and I was left alone to deal with the torture device. 

To get a better look at the galvanized pipe, I had to get into the wall.  I may not have a lot of plumbing experience, but I have full confidence in my ability to tear open a wall. 

pipes in wall

What did I find ?  …  Copper! This meant that our house was not plumbed with rust-prone galvanized steel pipes and I no longer envisioned re-plumbing the entire house. I quickly texted my wife the cryptic “Hallelujah! Thank the lord its copper!”   


After a few Google searches, it was apparent the previous owner was probably in error when using the galvanized pipes.  For one, galvanized pipe has the aforementioned rust problem.  And second, copper and galvanized pipe have a corrosion problem when used in combination, called electrolysis (see the green part in the photo above?).

A lot of material on the web suggests that you can simply place a brass fitting between the two metals to prevent the corrosion problem.  Despite the brass fitting placed between the copper and galvanized pipe in our setting, there are still visual signs of the metals corroding.  A small brass fitting does not separate the metals at a great enough distance.

It is amazing how much the galvanized steel pipe had rusted but the brass fitting looked almost brand new.

clean threads of pipe

I used a wire brush to clean off the threads.

It was very promising to see the brass fitting in such good shape.  All that was needed were replacements for the rusted galvanized pipes, which we replaced with brass.  This was a natural choice because of the brass fitting already in place and because it won’t rust.  A trip to Home Depot and 10 bucks later, we had our replacement pipes. 

This time I felt confident a few wraps of Teflon tape and a pipe wrench was all that would be needed to make the seal. 

wrap teflon tape

This is about where I lost Matt. Turns out he doesn’t love blogging like I do.

After Matt reattached the new brass pipes, he had to detach the drain to replace the drywall.

detach drain

He then put the drywall in place and used Teflon tape to reattach the shutoff valves.

replace drywall by plumbing

It was nice because the drywall still moved a little so we could get our hand in the wall and make sure there were no drips on either side.

After a lot of trial and error, the fix was a success!

In summary, here are our tips that will make basic plumbing a little easier  (especially if your house is older, like our 1975 home):

1. If the pipes look corroded on the ends it could be the sign of a bigger problem. Its worth a little drywall repair to open up the wall and make sure everything else is good.

2. When connecting new pipe to existing ones, make sure the connection follows code. In our case, the brass fitting wasn’t nearly long enough to separate the copper and galvanized pipe (I think 3 inches is a good rule of thumb).

3. How you apply Teflon tape makes a difference. Start at the end of the pipe (but don’t have any hang over the edge), and wrap in the direction of the threads. Two or three layers is enough.

4. Once you hand-tighten the pipes, use a pipe wrench to go one half to one full rotation (but no more than that). This will make sure the connection is tight without tightening too much and damaging the threads.

5. Don’t tell your wife you can “just re-plumb the house in a day” and expect her not to look really, really worried.

Also, I can’t resist adding this picture. Look at Matt’s helper. Carl jumps on his back like that all the time.


Linked up at

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Summery Entry Way Display

Motivated by Layla’s Summer Link Party, I’d considered trying to dress up a table or mantel for summer. But I was just uninspired. I looked around the house for summery decor but most of it was either already being used (like on our mantel) or just wasn’t workin’ for me.

I had given up. That is, I’d given up until I went to the dentist. Weird, I know, but my dentist is right next door to a Tuesday Morning, so I stopped in to see what they had to offer. I found so much I could have purchased it was overwhelming!

After narrowing it down to just a few items, I went home, told my husband the dentist gave me some new house stuff, and started decorating the desk in my entry.

My goal was to use my new napkins and lantern from Tuesday Morning.

napkins lantern

I combined these new pieces with some items I did have around the house to make a cheery entry way display.

summer entry way

The azaleas in the front yard are blooming like crazy so I went outside to clip a few. I had only half-changed from work but thought, hey, its raining, no one will be outside. Off I went in work shoes (and socks!), soccer shorts, and a frilly sweater. I looked awesome. I’m sure you can guess that I totally got caught by the neighbor as I lurked in the bushes in my put-together outfit.
They already think I’m nuts so no harm done :)

azalea bouquet

I love that you can see the flowers from the couch in the living room and that the sunny yellow napkins are the first greeting when you walk in the front door. The napkins also tie in the yellow accents in the living room.


The only practical part of the decor is that we still have a little bowl to catch our keys when we come home each night.

entry way display

A side note: Tuesday Morning also had these napkins for $1.49. I know its May but I couldn’t pass up 50 cocktail napkins for that price! Plus now I have a new winter drink recipe :)

christmas napkins

Its so nice looking at a cheery display as I sit here on the couch with chocolate chip cookies (what diet?).

summer decor entry way

Sharing our summer entry way at Funky Junk Interiors

The Lettered Cottage         HookingupwithHoH      Weekend Bloggy Reading Pin It

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Healthy Lemon Poppy Seed Mini Muffin Recipe

As the sun shows its face around Portland a bit more each week, I’m sorely reminded of my tendency to hibernate during the winter. My spring and summer clothes are, um, snug.

I’ve been exercising more lately and I’m trying (yet again) to start eating better. One way I do this while not completely depriving myself is by making these yummy lemon poppy seed muffins.


I originally got this recipe from the Biggest Loser Cookbook. I’ll share the original recipe and my modifications that make it a bit easier (in green).

Note: I always double the recipe (ingredients below are not doubled). If I’m going to be baking anyway, I may as well get more muffins out of it!

I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter Spray
1 cup whole grain oat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fat-tree, artificially flavored vanilla yogurt
3 large egg whites
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons poppy seeds


What? No sugar? No worries, these ingredients make them delish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat 20 cups of a mini-muffin tin with the butter spray.

In the bowl of the food processor, process the flour for about 1 minute, or until it has the consistency of all-purpose flour and no coarse grains remain. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sift the mixture twice.

I use Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour and skip the food processor and sifter. If you’re lucky enough (I’m so thankful) to have a stand up mixer, just put all the ingredients in there and mix for a couple minutes, then transfer the dry mixture to another bowl and set aside. If you don’t have a standup mixer you can use a handheld one or a fork.


My best baking friend.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, egg whites, honey, vanilla extract, and lemon extract with a sturdy whisk or spatula until well mixed.

This recipe was my first encounter with ‘egg whites only’. I wasn’t sure how to separate them! I’m sure I called my mom and she walked me through it. If you’ve never done this, here’s my novice explanation of separating the egg whites.


Any clever ideas on what to do with the yolk? I feel bad throwing it away, but can’t bring myself to scramble up 3 egg yolks just to avoid wasting them.

Stir in the reserved flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the lemon peel and poppy seeds. Spoon batter into 20 prepared muffin cups.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center of one muffin comes out dry (a few crumbs are okay).


Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then move muffins to a cooling rack.


What is your favorite ‘trying to eat healthy but can’t say no to carbs’ recipe?

Sharing this recipe at Southern Hospitality and The Stories of A to Z.

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Shout out to JandJ Home and Northwest Hospitality

A couple days ago I mentioned I owed two amazingly creative bloggers a proper Thank You for two DIY decor pieces I've made recently.

The first is Jeanne from JandJ Home. She posted a great tutorial to make this sunburst mirror. I featured it way back in March and then I finally made it a few weeks ago.

Jeanne’s mirror


Jeanne's tutorial was so easy to follow I was able to watch a basketball game (Really? The playoffs have been going on that long?) and make the mirror.


I was a little unsure of how to hang it up, but I found an easy solution using picture hanging wire from Michael’s.


First, wrap the wire around the wreath frame on one side and then string it across part of the wreath (like on the back of a picture frame). Tie it off the same way you did the first side (like the picture above). Easy as the cast of Jersey Shore.

Once the mirror got into the guest room where its currently living, I realized there wasn't enough contrast between the wall color and the color of the shims so I put a dark stain on it. Much better for our room!


Thank you JandJ Home for the awesome inspiration!

The second blogger I have to thank is Sarah from Northwest Hospitality, for the instructions on how to make a coffee filter lampshade.

Sarah’s lamp


One pack of coffee filters helped transform an old lampshade into this beautiful one.

Same lamp shade!

Funny, I also watched a basketball game while making this lampshade. I've relinquished all control of the remote to my husband. Help!

Thank you ladies for the wonderful inspiration and easy-to-follow tutorials that helped me create great decor pieces on the cheap! Pin It

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Anne from Hello Newman’s Talks Kitchen Ideas

Last week I mentioned that Matt and I are beginning to research our major kitchen remodel. While Matt gets all excited about the possibility of sweating copper pipes together (do I trust him to do that?), I’ve been brainstorming more practically (?) about what features we need in the kitchen. You know, like a wine rack, a double sink, and a cookbook shelf. Really practical things!
 I’m so happy to have Anne here today to help me brainstorm!


Anne usually blogs over at Hello Newman’s (LOVE that name) and has a ton of great ideas, so I was stoked when she agreed to let me interview her in order to glean all of her knowledge about inexpensive design elements for our kitchen remodel.

Check out her kitchen!
She made those glass cabinets!

Hi, Katie.  I am so excited to be here today sharing a few of our kitchen projects and ideas.  If money were no object, I can think of a million things I would like to do.  However, since I try to live in reality, there are some things that will have to wait, maybe forever.  But I can always dream, right?  My hope is that a few of these little projects will help inspire others to realize there are definitely some easy and inexpensive updates you can make to totally transform a kitchen.

What is your favorite feature of your kitchen? 

I would have to say that my favorite feature in our kitchen is the island.  We can't afford new countertops right now (they are however, definitely on my "some day but not some day soon" list).  So....we came up with sort of a compromise for the island.  IKEA sells these super inexpensive pieces of butcher block wood which we added to the island - this totally changed the look of the kitchen without breaking the bank.


If you could change one thing, what would it be?  

I would definitely get rid of the white laminate countertops.  Gag.  I have been tempted to try painting them with one of the countertop painting kits that are on the market right now - but can't seem to get up enough nerve.  I would also make the entire kitchen bigger (if I could do ANYTHING).  It never fails - people congregate around the food.  And the food is always in the kitchen.  We have a good amount of space - but a gal could always use a little more, right? :)


What is your fave DIY project you’ve completed?

We added some super inexpensive DIY glass front cabinets. This has to be one of the best ways for me to keep things neat and organized because people can always see whatcha got in there!  I love that they give an upgraded feel without the cost of custom cabinets (and they force me to keep our plates/bowls/glasses super organized).


Do you have any advice on storage? What has worked well and what do you wish you could change? 

Storage advice - don't keep stuff you don't need.  We have been married about 6 and 1/2 years.  And have lived in 5 different houses.  When we moved this last time, we still had a couple of random kitchen items that were STILL IN THEIR ORIGINAL BOX (meaning we had never used them).  Yep - it was time to do a little de-cluttering.  Another rule I try to live by - keep items on the countertop to a minimum. 

Keep them to a minimum? Between my coffee addiction and Matt’s addiction to popcorn (from the popper), we’re in trouble.

It's not worth letting too much stuff junk up your life. And that goes for any room in the house. (See Anne’s tips for helping yourself purge unneeded items here.)

Any other fun ideas?? 

We have a bay window in our breakfast nook - and I wanted to add curtains.  It did not take me long to realize how difficult and expensive it is to find a bay window curtain rod.  So we improvised with some PVC pipe spray painted silver.  Yep - it ended up costing around $3 for the pipe and $5 for the two end pieces removed from a cheap window rod that I purchased from Ross.


We also used chalkboard paint on one of the blank walls - which I love.  We use it all of the time - for messages, menus, special occasions (and of course our 18 month old loves it too). 


Thanks again for letting me share a few thoughts and ideas. I am so excited to see how your new kitchen turns out - I am sure it will be absolutely beautiful!

Thank YOU Anne for letting me pick your brain!

Now Anne and I want to know: What is your favorite feature of your kitchen? What is a must have?

Also, don’t forget to check out the rest of Anne’s great ideas over at Hello Newman’s. And be sure to say that in a Kramer voice :)

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