Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lack Table Hack Part 2

Back in November I wrote Part 1 of our Lack Table Hack. Between then and now a few other projects have taken precedence, but we are finally ready to unveil our creation. The plan was to use 10 Lack tabletops and 2 Lack shelves from IKEA to create an entertainment center type shelving unit. After some deliberations and a few Google SketchUp renderings, here was the blueprint.
As we did the measurements, we did run into one snag. The location of the outlet box against the wall was going to make it impossible for us to do 2 across for the bottom row. If we started the hangings to the left of the outlet, our whole unit would be a bit too far into the "dining room" area of our space. Now, we considered flipping the whole thing and having the open shelves on the other side of the television, but it seemed like the shelves would look too un-anchored out in the middle of the room. Our plan is to get a medium-sized green plant for the right side of the television unit that will cover up the brick and help connect this one-off square to the rest of the display.
Bob got to work with the drill and successfully attached the bottom square using masonry anchors and a basic wall bracket.
Rather than do each one individually, we attached 2 squares together to make our job of lining them all up exactly a little easier. We first just screwed them together using flat mending plates, but realized they were a little too flimsy and loosened up when used with the Ikea composite wood. Borrowing my brother in law's heavy duty staple gun, we secured them together with little room for bending.

This was no doubt a lot of careful measurement and work for Bob to get these up on the wall and lined up with each other perfectly. The location of the bricks dictated where the wall brackets would be mounted; drilling and anchoring into brick provides a more reliable and sturdy hold than the mortar.  
The next step was attaching our Lack shelves. We picked up two 43" shelves for $15 each. We continued the black brown theme. Originally, I would have liked for the top shelf to go all the way across but ran into 2 issues: a) the length of the Lack shelves would not match up with the length of 4 tabletops so we would have needed to add 2 seperate shelves and b) the height of the television is almost even with the top shelf, which could look a little awkward. I would have rather the tv look like it was nestled in perfectly under a shelf as opposed to being as high the shelf itself.
We quickly found a home for the alabaster jars we picked up in Egypt last year and a lovely little decorative box found at a favorite local shop, Equinox.
The "date" from our Save the Dates has a temporary home on the top shelf but I think it might eventually move to the very top against the brick. The shelf arrangements are certainly a work in progress - we would like to add a little turquoise/teal to the mix to echo our rug and planter, and I previously mentioned the plan for some nicely sized greenery to cover up the brick at the bottom.  Although the angle of the television in this photo looks like it is further to the left, the media unit is perfectly even with the start of the backdrop.
Cost Analysis:
10 Lack Tabletops - $100 (we ended up using 9, but have an end table plan for the tenth)
2 43" Lack Shelves - $30
Hardware - @$30 (wall brackets, mending plates and a couple specific drill bits that will help out in future projects)

You can see from this wide angle just how much wall we had to work with which led to an effort in making our media area a little more substantial. What do you think? Mission Accomplished?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Feeling a Bit Shelf-ish

The closet in the second bedroom does the trick if we were using it as a bedroom - one shelf up top and plenty of room for hanging clothes. But since we are not using the room as a bedroom, we wanted to maximize the space for storage.
We found a simple white shelf at our neighborhood Ace Hardware and picked up a few brackets, all for under $20. We made an effort to not buy a shelf the full length of the closet on purpose. Bob's skis and ski boots found their way to Chicago and this is our best space for storing them. By picking up a slightly shorter shelf, the skis could nestle in to the corner just perfectly.
We picked the height of the shelf mostly for things to be easy to grab - the shelf will hold some of my extra craft stuff and my bin of yarn. We also looked at a height where we could still fit our framed pictures that have yet to find a home in our place.
With the shelf up and Lydia Organization Mode in full swing, we ended up with this. With the extra pictures out of the way, the space should open up even more:
Our little closet addition also managed to turn our computer desk area from this:
to this. We are getting closer and closer to actually being able to use the desk. Wahoo!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ham 'n Swiss

This is a simple one ideed - but oh so tasty. We were a little stuck for lunch the other day so we pulled out some leftover ham and a hunk of swiss cheese and made some great sandwiches. We sprayed a heated up pan with oil and lined it with pieces of ham. After tossing them a bit to heat through, swiss cheese slices were layered on top. Covering the pan for a couple minutes, as we would for a great grilled cheese, ensured that the swiss got nice and gooey.

We have a bakery right around the corner from us, which we probably don't take advantage of enough. After purchasing a couple fresh sandwich buns for a mere 30 cents each, I think we might start making more use of our neighbor for freshly baked goodness.

Add some champagne mustard and baby, you got a sandwich goin' on.*
*Carl Weathers on Arrested Development. I'll never look at stew the same way again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Goals Year Two - Q3 Check In

Time is running short to get through all of these. Let us check in to see if I am on track to be able to complete my goals by July.

Culture Vulture
1. Read 15 books - I succeeded in this goal last year and thought I'd tackle it again. Between book club and random reads should hopefully not be a problem. Now as you read down the list at some of the other projects I am putting on tap for myself one might wonder when I will have time to read. . .
The Hunger Games - okay, consider me hooked.
The Paris Wife - Hemingway's First Wife Historical Fiction, call it "Loving Hem"
We Need to Talk About Kevin - disturbing, but engrossing, emphasis on the gross. Not sure I am going to be able to stomach the movie.
Unbroken - great story, filed in the "can't believe it's true" category.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - very good book club discussion. Made science easier to read.
The Night Circus - Brought to mind one of my favorite movies, The Prestige. Magical enough, but in the end I wanted a little more from the story.
Catching Fire - good segueway into the final chapter.
Mockingjay - I think I read through this too quickly. This is a testament to how addicting they are, but I think I missed some nuances. . .
Bossypants - Tina Fey incites laughs, but in the end I wanted a little more (a repetitive theme)
The 19th Wife - Historical fiction around the subject of polygamy.  Hard to wrap your head around the way of life, but holds the interest.

2. Watch 120 movies - time to expand the horizons even further! Maybe this will be the year I finish out the Woody Allen oeuvre.
Up to 84. Need to carve out more time for movies, but we have been on a major Law & Order kick when it comes to streaming Netflix.

3. Two trips to the theater - My sister and I take an annual trip to see a show and this winter A Christmas Story is going musical! Methinks tickets shall be purchased!
We won't go before this goal year is completed, but tickets to Book of Mormon for next January have been purchased. I have a little bit of work to do to see a little bit more.

4. Visit two museums - culture me, Chicago, culture me.
8/13/11 - a trip to the Art Institute turned a little special - Bob and I got engaged!
April - Tate Modern in London.

5. Travel to three new cities - Will this finally be the year I make it to New Orleans? What about DC? Or a road trip through Maine? Big plans in my head, lets put something on the calendar.
Consider me covered - Charleston, SC followed by San Antonio. Boston, New Orleans and London!

6. Book an international trip - chant it with me now: London 2012! London 2012!
photo source
An amazing trip for the record books. Stay tuned for a write up.

7. Have a day of fun and culture with my niece - she'll be coming up on three years old in May - time she got familiar with downtown Chicago! I think we might put off a trip to American Girl Place for another year though. No sense starting too early on that money train.

8. Walk the Willis Tower Ledge - I've been to the observatory deck of the then Sears Tower, but not since the glass box had been added. Face a fear and take the step out!


How Entertaining
9. Make a cheesecake - I have already borrowed the springform pan from sister. Time to try my hand at this new endeavor!

10. Bake bread - After reading through some recipes at a friend's house, I started to think that baking bread (without a breadmaker) was quite doable indeed. Challenge accepted: will it be sourdough or pumpernickel?

11. Love the crockpot - I loves me my meatballs recipe and chicken enchilada recipe, but lets get creative with the crockpot. 4 new recipes in this next year.
Made Taco Soup and a Sweet Chili.


12. Host 3 parties - Last year I took on 4, but with our impending move and a few months of potential dissaray at our casa makes me rethink how many we should commit to. I will tell you this - I am already planning a massive housewarming/holiday party come December!
Housewarming party check. Hosted Thanksgiving and Easter for family.

13. Plan someone else's party - If I can't host at my house I'll take my business elsewhere. Calling on friends and family: bring on your baby shower, your bridal shower or your bar mitzvah and let me take a crack at it.
Helping my sister plan a woodland fairies themed birthday party for my soon to be 3 year old niece.

Health and Wellness
14. Drink more water - My name is Lydia and I am dehydrated. I have never loved water, the taste just doesn't appeal to me. But the positive effects can't be denied. I will try to commit to filling up a water bottle each day at least a couple times.
Been making a considerable effort to fill up the bottle at work. It stares at me from my desk, but I've been good!
15. Run another 5K - time to get back out on the sidewalk and improve my game. When this intense heat finally goes the way of the buffalo I will strap back on the shoes and hit the pavement.

16. Go to the Dermatologist - This fair, freckled face should finally get checked out. Too many scary stories of skin cancer scares out there not to.

17. Build an Indoor Garden - is this health and wellness? I can't figure out what category it would go under. If the purchase of our next place goes through we may be sans outdoor space. How can I still incorporate some greenery?


Adventures in DIY
18. Build a craft table - because I can't bring myself to pay a fortune for this Pottery Barn beauty to the left, lets see how two bookshelves and my old IKEA Malm headboard look together.
It's done and it is wonderful! Check it out here

19. Pinterest Projects - use the knowledge base and take on at least one new project a month based on the wonderful pins that make the world go round. 
Count 'em up with me: Thumbtack Vase Fillers, Egg Roll Wrapper Mozzerella Sticks, Yarn Wreath, Plant Markers, Housewarming Party apps, Shag Rug

20. Make a rug - Speaking of Pinterest projects, this one is a doozy. Do I have 60 manhours to commit to making this bad boy? Will I get two steps in and realize I don't know what I'm doing? We'll see what develops. . .
All done! Check it out here

21. Make 100 cards - seems daunting at first, but considering I get about 25 out of the way come Christmastime I could be able to make this one happen.
Okay, not sure I am going to make it to 100. I have about 35 under my belt.

22. Plan a renovation - this one has some considerations. a) We need to be in our next place. b) It needs to have enough wrong with it to look at totally rehabbing a room. c) we need to have some moolah saved up.
The wedding may put this one on the back burner!


Professional and Personal Development
23. Join a networking group - For a person who works in association management, I haven't taken advantage of many career enhancing opportunities myself.

24. Do something with the Wisconsin Alumni Association - I miss my Badgers!
I did go to a Badger game in October. Does that count??

25. Volunteer once a month - keep it up with Chicago Cares, those little three year olds we read to are too adorable for words.
Knocked out signing up for three months at a time to close out the year with a Library Maintenance activity, Read With Me night with the little kids and making dinner at the Ronald McDonald House!

26. Donate to 3 charities/fundraising activities - Lets help some people out in the things they are fighting for, or fighting against.

27. Look into an Etsy shop - could I possibly turn some of my little endeavors into a selling opportunity? I'm not committing to anything, but will definitely look into what it might take to set up a shop and invest the time.
I just bought 500 one inch blocks to make a bunch of my holiday blocks. So I better start looking into how I'll be offloading them!

28. Learn how to use my camera - I really don't know what I am doing yet with my point and shoot. Time to make a change.
Oh my gosh - there is a setting for incandescent lighting! My indoor photos look 10 times better!

29. Implement video into the blog - I recently got a Sony Bloggie. Let's play.

30. 100 blog posts - with an impending home purchase this shouldn't be a problem at all. There has been a struggle to find enough quality stuff to write about the past few months once the old apartment was pretty much the exact way we wanted it. But the idea of a brand new place? Bring it on blog.
About 58 in so far, it has been a slow few months, but the quality and pin-ability of my posts have definitely increased which is a good thing (hello intensive shag rug, save the date and projec table). Still some work to do to hit 100!

31. Develop Adobe skills - Photoshop, thy will be tamed.

32. Wardrobe rehaul - now this is a fun goal: spend lots of money on clothes! It has been awhile since I invested in some new pieces. Already got a jump start by finding the perfect pair of jeans for Casual Friday at Gap this week.
photo source
Yes, new boots, jackets and sweaters have been finding their way into my closet.

Money Matters
33. Pay off one student loan - Sort of cheating on this one because I already have a plan to get my ECSI loan out of the way come August 1. I decided to take a little bit of extra cash I had and put it towards my smaller loan. After putting the extra minimum payment against my larger loan I should be able to get that one done with in 2012!
8/2/11 - one is done. Ahh, that felt good.


34. Increase percentage of 401K savings - I believe I am already on my way to a healthy retirement considering I was able to start my account at age 22 and take advantage of a company match. However, there is always room for a little more. Look at increasing by a percentage point or two to bring even more money my way when I am in my wisened older days.

35. Assess the portfolio - Do I know what that 401K really means? Not really. I haven't readdressed the investments I am working on in quite awhile so it may be time to make sure I'm doing the best for myself.
Done! We have complimentary access to UBS advisors through my work so I set up a meeting and re-adjusted where I was putting my money. Feeling smarter already.
36. Find three ways to earn extra cash - And no, I won't turn to a life of crime. Working a street festival weekend, market research studies or simply selling off unwanted stuff can help me pad the bank account little by little. Bob and I are going to be able to buy our new bed for the next place based off of a three day weekend working at Lollapalooza!
photo source

8/7/11 - Now that was an exhausting 3 days but the money earned on Lollapalooza weekend will help pay for our new bedroom.
9/10/11 - Worked another fest - this time the Wells St. Fall Fest in a beer tent. Not a bad gig when Sixteen Candles, the 80s music cover band, is playing on the stage right next to you.
9/13/11 - Those focus group sign ups pay off with another one! $150 free in my pocket!


Finally
36.5 Be an excellent Aunt to one - no, make that two - little girls! With a new niece on the way this fall I have plenty of auntie love to go around.
That new niece is here and she is quite something! And I think I'm starting to earn some cool Aunt points with Ella - check out the book I made her for Christmas here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Life for a DVD Shelf

I promised a post as a follow up to the DIY Project Table detailing the shelf in the photos behind it.

This Target shelf has served me well as a DVD holder for the last seven years or so. I am even finding myself eating my words from an early blog post where I said I would prefer to always display my DVD collection as opposed to shutting them up in a cabinet. Well, they are now shut up in a cabinet and I do not feel like I am missing out on anything!
Rather than toss the shelf, I figured we'd breathe new life into it with a coat of white spray paint. To help lessen the media shelf look, I wanted to see if we could break out one of the sections to create a cork board area.
This proved a bit tougher in actuality - I do not think this shelf was meant to be taken back apart! After not being able to unscrew the piece, we went about it the old fashioned way - took a hammer to it and busted it out. Overall this worked out all right, until we got to the bottom piece. It took a chunk out of our shelf.
Luckily, my brother in law had a pail of drywall compound that we could slap into the holes. While I focused on the project tabletop that weekend, we let the compound dry and headed back the next weeked to finish the shelf. The compound cracked after it dried which wasn't great to see, but if I am no perfectionist - once we spray painted over it the difference wasn't too bad at all, and I might end up covering this shelf up with something anyway.
A little glossy white. . .
And a little more. . .
And a little more. We ended up using four full cans of spray paint on this bad boy. The reason the one section looks unfinished is because that was where the cork board would get glued in. I found the 4-pack of cork tiles at Walmart on sale for about $6.

I knew I didn't need all of the little adjustable shelves it came with. I saved 10 and spray painted them white as well, making sure to get the edges!
Back at home, the shelf went up and the adjustable shelves got put in. The cork board actually fit in quite perfectly - I thought I would need to trim the edges because it was a few centimeters too wide, but luckily it tucked under the next side pretty well - thanks for the cheap-o backing, Target! We just made sure to heavily spray paint the bottom few inches so that it didn't look unfinished.
After adding a few of my inspiration binder pages to the cork board, some Easter and travel themed stamps, a little bit of artwork and a caddy to allow my glue and scissors to be super handy, this shelf is the perfect complement to the project table.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A DIY Project Table for DIY Projects

Cross another goal off the list. The DIY Project Table is done-zo.

Ahh, the idea of having a home for my craftiness. Meaning I would not have to drag all of my gear out to the living room and take over the coffee table anymore? I like it. I am sure I am not the only one who has stared longingly at the Bedford Project Table from Pottery Barn. To put it in perspective, I'd be going from this:
 to this:
So how to tackle this table in DIY world? I saw several good options online, from bookshelf ends to old doors for tops. My own spin on the table came to me while dismanteling my IKEA Malm bed at our old place. Knowing it wasn't going to survive the move, I assessed the headboard piece. I liked how wide it was, which would allow for plenty of workspace. The wheels started turning. . .
The next step involved figuring out what to use for the sides. I knew I wanted the table to be a bit higher off the ground, taller than a regular computer desk. I started searching for shelves that would hit at a little less than 40" but were also relatively inexpensive. With little luck, I figured I would have to settle for something a bit shorter when another idea we had solved two problems.

Our second bedroom was going to be the project table's home, but when we do have people stay with us we need some flexibility with the room to fit in a temporary bed. If we put the project table on wheels, we could move it over to one of the corners easily, creating some wide open space. One one of our IKEA trips we picked up 4 sets of casters and the Expedit shelves that would now be the perfect height. Taking into account the 2" thick tabletop, the workspace would end up at about 37" off the ground.
For months, the shelves sat holding all of my craft stuff against one wall in the second bedroom. Hosting family and friends several times since moving in last fall meant we haven't had the right window of time to dismantle the twin beds and start re-purposing the room. 
While the beds worked well in our last place, they currently take up a little too much room - not even allowing us to pull out the chair to the desk where our future Mac mini will live.
So, the concession of losing a permanent guest bedroom is made up for in my mind by giving us a room we can use every day. We are still deciding our best option for a Queen-Sized bed: fancy aerobed? Murphy bed? Pull out couch? We'll start doing our research and see what comes out on top. My challenge with the pull out couch is how much room it will take up, but it would be nice to have some additional seating in the room.

Okay, back to the table! A couple weeks ago (basically after the behometh that was my rug project finished up), I flipped over the Expedit shelves and Bob helped me attach the wheels. We grabbed the headboard from our storage area where it has been collecting dust for six months and threw it on top. Can you already see it coming together?
Living in a condo in the city means having a space to work on major projects is limited. In particular, the task of spray painting a giant headboard. We headed out to my sister's house in the suburbs and took over their garage! A suburb trip was going to be necessary no matter what as you cannot buy spray paint in the city of Chicago. We scoured the shelves at Lowe's for the perfect glossy white and I thought we were in good shape with 1 primer and 2 bottles of white (I should also mention we were  also spray painting an old shelf that weekend).

Apparantly, spray paint does not go very far when you have fairly large pieces! We had a couple return trips to the store over the next week as we realized this. It was also funny when we asked the Lowe's guy for suggestions on what type of spray paint to get and when he asked what we were painting I said, "IKEA" and he said something like, "oh, so fake crap?" Even after sanding, I think the material we were painting didn't take as well to the paint which made us use a lot more.
The headboard is one inch less wide than the Expedit shelves. To alleviate this gap, we picked up a 1"x2" piece of wood at Lowe's.
After cutting it to size length-wise, I was surprised to find that it was much less than 2" thick. Bob says that lumber will run that way. I say false advertising.
 We screwed it onto the edge of the headboard, and in the end we like the gap that it creates on the "front" of the table.
Bob had originally suggested I cover the headboard with laminate to protect the surface and create a stronger work area, but after doing a little bit of research into cost of laminate and acrylic pieces and the implementation work that would be needed, I decided to just stick with painting it. I did not seal the top after spray painting, but would suggest doing so. It may be a future upgrade to the project. I have horrible spray painting form - Bob had to take over for me after awhile. I'll point to Young House Love's post on tips for good spray painting as opposed to sharing any of my own methods.
With a newly white headboard in tow, we headed back home, slapped it back on the shelf ends and drilled 3" screws from the inside top of the Expedit shelves into the headboard. Bonus: cheap IKEA wood is very easy to drill through. 
The white paint is a little different color than the shelves, and the extra piece of wood is also a different shade, but I think the differences make for a little character. The wheels can lock into place, but it doesn't even seem to move around too much on its own with all of the weight now in it.

I restocked the shelves with my craft supplies and added a few pieces to the top including our self healing cutting mat and the OttLite Task Lamp I received for Christmas and have not had a chance to use yet.
You can get a sneak peek of my DVD shelf turned craft shelf in the background of these photos. I love how the white pops against our blue walls. Stay tuned this week for a write up of that project!
Cost Analysis:
2 Expedit Shelves - $80*
4 Expedit Casters - $60
Spray Paint and end wood piece for tabletop - @$10
*We did get the shelves and casters on an IKEA run where we used a $25 coupon from our recent move. However, we definitely bought a lot of other stuff to make up the difference!

Not bad considering the $1000 price tag on the Pottery Barn table!

The only thing left is to find a stool or high chair and we're good to go! Just in time to start putting together all of those wedding centerpieces. . .more on that later, but check out the bowl of yellow yarn balls on the tabletop to give you a hint!