Thursday, June 19, 2014

Paws Awhile - Surprise Redecorating!

My sister and her husband spent a week with me at Paws Awhile last week.  They had such a good time that they asked if they could go down again this week.  Since Tony was working and I had other commitments in Smyrna we said yes.  (I think this means they have now spent more time there than Tony has.)

They sent me a few texts, and it sounded like they were having a great time. I had no idea what they were up to.  Last night, they sent me some pictures and I found that they had done a surprise redecoration of the guest bedroom!  I was thrilled!  We had spent so much time concentrating on the kitchen & living room remodel that we had just left the bedrooms as-is for now. I didn't like the decor, but just didn't have the energy to do anything about it.  Now, I don't have to (at least for the guest room).

Here's what it looked like before:

And here's what it looks like after the surprise redecoration:

 There are so many adorable little beachy touches!  I can't wait to get down there to see it for myself!

What other surprises are in store for us at Paws Awhile!

Thanks Mary Jane & Robert!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tech Savvy or I.T. Ignorant?

Technology can be so confusing, even to those of us who consider ourselves "tech saavy".  I am slow to accept change in some areas and on the fast track in other areas.

I was slow to upgrade my laptop because I have some software that can be very persnickety. I am still using Microsoft Front Page to update our website.  Front Page won't run on anything newer than Windows XP so I keep an old laptop around just for that purpose. I'm considering migrating our website to blogspot once the old Windows XP laptop bites the dust.

Anyway, when it was time to upgrade to a new laptop (several years ago), I shopped around and stupidly decided that I needed a Windows Vista gaming laptop with a 64 bit operating system, a 1TB hard drive & lots of bells & whistles.  The thing is HUGE and weighs a ton.

The 64 bit operating system wouldn't run a lot of my old software so I had to buy new versions of the ones I could & run some of it in emulation mode, and some of it just wouldn't run at all. I thought maybe Windows 7 would be better so I upgraded, but that didn't help.

I managed to get it working well enough though, so I put off the next upgrade until this year when it started to become unreliable.

After lugging the albatross around for so many years, I went to the opposite extreme with this purchase. I got the tiny Microsoft Surface Pro with the Windows 8.1 operating system.  What a learning curve this one has!

  • The Cloud
    • The Microsoft Surface Pro has very little onboard memory so everything is "cloud" based.  I'm not a trusting soul, so I don't really want my data on a cloud that I have no control over. My solution for this was to purchase my own cloud, the WD MyCloud. The MyCloud has frustrations of its own. 

    • Some software (namely Neatworks & Outlook) won't let you keep your database remotely so a lot of the onboard memory of my Surface is eaten up by my Neatworks documents & receipts.
    • Offline backup of the data on MyCloud is difficult. Many of the backup companies don't back-up LAN attached devices (or charge an arm and a leg for it).  I finally found one that does, and at a reasonable price - Zoolz
    • The WD MyCloud software that is used to access the device remotely does not allow searches so if I don't remember where I put something, I am stuck.
    • Using the touch screen with the WD Mycloud software sometimes causes me to accidentally drag and drop a folder into another folder and then I can't find it again.
    • There are some good things about having a LAN attached device though - namely, Tony and I can share files. We did this before by sharing files on my laptop but when I wasn't at home, Tony was out of the water. Also, a local backup of the drive is easy. You can just plug an external hard drive right into the USB port on the MyCloud.
  • Software
    • Some software just won't run on Windows 8.1.
    • My old, old, old version of Microsoft Office (from 2002, I think) won't run on Windows 8 so I had to buy a new version. The good news is that they've made a few improvements since 2002 and I'm learning to like them. I got the Office 365 version which is actually a subscription service. For something like $100/year, I get 5 licenses to use as I see fit. I can even share them with friends.
    • I don't remember whether my financial software wouldn't run or I just chose to upgrade, but I bought new versions of Quicken & Quickbooks as well.
    • The majority of the problems I had loading software related to the issue of limited onboard storage and needing my software programs to access the cloud.
  • Apps, apps, apps
    • I don't really understand the concept of apps when it comes to a laptop. I'm fine with the apps on my Android phone, but I just don't see the purpose on a laptop. What was wrong with programs?  And don't get me started on the Microsoft apps that require you to watch a 30 second commercial over and over unless you want to upgrade from the free version to a paid version.
    • Switching between apps and programs is confusing. When I am running a program, I see a list of other running programs at the bottom of the screen, but the apps I am running don't appear here. The easiest way I have determined to get back to an app is to use the alt-tab. You can use the touch screen by swiping left to right as well, but that's not really intuitive to me.
  • Touch Screen
    • The touch screen is sort of a neat feature - sort of...  It takes some getting used to though and for those of us with fat fingers, it can cause us to drag & drop things in places we didn't intend. (see WD MyCloud above).
    • I was really excited about the pen that comes with the Surface that would allow me to draw on the screen as though it were a pad. The pen turns into a cursor when it gets close to the screen. It can be used in lieu of a mouse. It is supposed to be stored magnetically on the side of the screen in the same port where the power cord attaches. When the power cord is attached, there is no place to put the pen. So, of course, I lost it. A replacement one is upward of $32 and I'll just lose the next one too, so I won't replace it.
    • A mouse is essential for me. I just can't get the precision I need with my finger so I got a cordless mouse for home & a tiny corded one for travel.
  • Portability
    • The best thing the surface has going for it is its portability!  
    • Out of the box, all you get is the device which just looks like a screen - about the size of an I-Pad, a small power brick and a pen/stylus.  You can purchase a keyboard separately (in your favorite color which attaches magnetically & acts like a cover.
    • I also purchased a neoprene case for mine which is large enough to hold the surface, the power brick, and a few accessories. I blinged mine up a bit to match the keyboard & make it "findable" in my black suitcase.
  • Screen Size
    • The tiny screen is sometimes difficult to see, and while adequate for travel, is not optimal for home office use, so I purchased a docking station that would allow me to attach an external screen.  I like to use the screens in dual mode with reference material on one screen and a working document or application on the other screen.
  • Docking Station
    • The docking station is essential if you are going to use this like a real workstation. It has 2 USB ports and an external monitor port. (You'll probably need an adapter for the monitor port)
    •  2 USB ports are not enough either, so I purchased a USB hub which gives me additional ports.
All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with my current set-up, albeit a bit messy (but that just describes me).  I have made a desk from a sofa table so that my "office" can be part of the living space so I won't be shoved off into the office upstairs all alone.

I could really use a bigger desk, but I would just clutter it up, so its probably best that I have limited myself to the sofa table.

And if this isn't enough change for me, I just upgraded my phone from the 4 year old T-Mobile MyTouch 4G (held together with scotch tape) to the latest and greatest HTC One M8.  So far I'm loving it!

Now if I can just figure out how to fire the cable TV company and come up with an acceptable and affordable solution, I think I'll be set for at least a month or two!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Re-Upholstery 101

Our German daughter, Carina and her husband bought a cabin near Blue Ridge, Georgia. It is a beautiful little cabin and she has done an amazing job decorating it. She is so talented at almost everything, but struggled a bit with re-covering upholstered cushions - or, maybe she just wanted to make me feel wanted.

Anyway, she and Brian invited us up a few weeks ago to see their cabin. She asked me to help her re-cover some cushions for the wicker rockers on the porch. She had some cute black-bear fabric to replace the floral print that didn't look "cabinish" at all.

I finished one of the cushions that weekend but ran out of time for the second one so we went back this weekend to finish. I thought I would blog the process in case it is helpful to someone else.

Here's how to do it:

First, take the old cushion apart and save the parts to use as a pattern. If you're frugal like me, you can remove the zipper and the piping to re-use in the new cushion.

Cut out the pieces using the old cushion cover as a pattern. You need a bottom, a top, sections for the zipper, a section for the sides and strips to cover the piping.

Install the zipper by machine-basting two sections together with a 5/8 inch seam using a stitch length of 5.
Then place the zipper face down over the seam. Flip the fabric back and machine-basted the zipper to the seam allowance on one side. Flip the fabric back and sew the zipper in place on both sides on the right side of the fabric. (I wasn't thinking about blogging at this point so I forgot to take any pictures, but this is a standard method for installing a zipper and there are lots of blogs and videos online if you need more detail.)

Next, prepare the piping for both sides of the cushion. Cut it to size, using the old fabric as a pattern.

Sew the seam as close as you can to the piping. Normally I would use a zipper foot to sew the piping into the fabric but if you do not have a zipper foot (Carina had forgotten to bring her zipper foot to the cabin) you can use the standard foot. Just had to put the piping under the pressure foot and get the needle as close to the piping as you can. If you have a zipper foot, put your needle in the left position and sew with the zipper foot against the piping.  Sew the piping to within about an inch of the end. leave about 1.5 inches of extra fabric.

Fold the extra fabric in half and tuck the opposite end into the extra fabric making a loop out of the piping. Make sure your piping is not twisted.

Next, pin the loop of piping to the cushion bottom matching the raw edges. To get it evenly spaced, mark the centers of both pieces. I like to mark multiple places. Fold the chair bottom in half length-wise and place pins at the top and bottom, then fold it in half width-wise and place pins at each side. Then split the difference between each pin and put pins at the center.  Do the same thing with the piping.

Match the pins up so that the piping is evenly spaced around the cushion bottom.

The piping will need to be stretched a bit to make it fit. I use lots of pins. It doesn't matter if the cushion bottom section looks a little "puckery". The foot feed on the sewing machine will take some of that out. You can also stretch it a little as you sew it.

Machine baste the piping to the cushion bottom trying to get the stitching on top of the previous stitching on the piping.

When you finish stitching the piping to the cushion bottom, clip the curves of the piping seam so it will lie flat. Be careful not to clip the stitching.


Repeat the process to mark the center of the cushion bottom with the piping attached.

Sew the zipper section to the side section to make a circle, then mark the centers like you did with the piping. Match the centers to the cushion bottom with the piping attached. Again, I use lots of pins.

Sew the seam using a stitch length of 2.5, being sure to stitch on top of the previous stitching.

Apply the piping to the cushion top just like you did for the bottom.

You're almost finished now. You just need to mark your centers of the cushion top and the side section and match them up. Be sure to open the zipper before you pin them together so you will be able to turn the cushion cover right side out after you have stitched it.

Turn the cushion cover right side out.

You might want to enlist the help of some strong men to help you stuff the foam rubber form into the cushion cover. It is usually a pretty tight fit.

It may take a bit of finagling to get the foam rubber adjusted in the cover. Just keep working with it until you get a nice smooth look.  Then just sit back and relax on your beautiful new cushions!

Paws Awhile Tiny End Table

During the big condo remodel, we decided to move the sofa to the opposite wall so we could mount the TV on the wall where the sofa had been and see it from the new kitchen. The only problem with our plan is that the new location for the sofa is not as big as the old location. To avoid having the sofa stick out past the wall, we needed a tiny end table.

I did a good bit of shopping for an end table that would fit our requirements but could not find just the right thing, so I decided to try out my carpentry skills. I didn't want to spend much money on my effort since I had very little confidence that I could create something we would actually use.

I thought I would re-purpose the wood from the bathroom cabinets we had removed during the great bathroom remodel of 2012 at our Smyrna home. I had already re-purposed one of the cabinets in another bathroom so I was feeling pretty "green".

Tony had already disassembled the cabinet and put the pieces in the discard pile.  I would have to glue two pieces together to get a piece of wood big enough to make the table top. I applied the glue and fashioned two braces to hold the pieces together in case the glue didn't hold.

As I was working with the old cabinet door, I discovered that it was not solid wood, but pressed board with an oak veneer over it. When I cut it to size, I would be left with raw pressed board edges - not pretty. The edges of the cabinet doors had been finished with brushed aluminum trim. I decided to try to reuse this. The trim was embedded in a groove in the pressed board. I was able to leave the trim as-is on one side of my table top but I had cut off the part with the trim on the other side. To re-install the trim, I would need to cut a groove in the pressed board. I enlisted the help of my husband who can be quite ingenious at finding solutions. He suggested that we use the dremel tool. To get the groove in the exact center of the wood, we mounted the dremel on the side of the drill press table at just the right height and then we could slide the board across the table and get out groove. Genious (or so I thought).

After we broke one dremel blade in half, and decided that the groove wasn't wide enough, we tried attaching two blades to the dremel. This wasn't really working either, so I resorted to doing it the old-fashioned way, using hand tools.

The hand saw worked great, especially since we had already started the groove. I was able to continue to the cut until it was deep enough to accommodate the trim. Next, I used a hack saw to cut the aluminum trim to the right length.

With the trim applied, the table top was finished. Next, I prepared a box that would be mounted on the bottom of the table top to hold the table legs. The box would be inset from the edge of the table by 1 inch on all sides.

I glued the box to the bottom of the table and left it for several days to dry.

I toyed around with using left overs for the legs, but decided that I could get some cheap stair spindles ($1.79 each) that would do nicely. I didn't splurge on the oak ones, but the oak stain I used matched the table top well enough.

I cut the legs to the right length, being careful to subtract the thickness of the table so that the height would measure exactly 22 inches.

Next, I glued and screwed the legs to the table top & base.

And Voila! Here's the finished product!  Less than $8 and just the right size. I can't wait to get it down to Paws Awhile and try it out! In the mean time, it can sit next to our sofa here in Smyrna!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Table Refinish - FAIL!

One should never let one's self get too sentimental about objects. That's what happened to me with this table. I love this table.  We had so many good times around it as children.

As a child, it never occurred to me what a tiny table it was, but when we were looking for a table for our little 800 square foot condo, this one seemed like it could be the perfect solution.  The leaves fold in to make it just right for a party of two, and four people can sit there with the leaves extended. You could even put a chair on either side and get 6 around it in a pinch.

The table has been in our basement for more years than I'd like to reveal and the surface was scratched from years of use as a craft table.

I thought I could dab some paint on it quickly and have a nice retro table.  Wrong.

First, I took the chrome legs off and sanded them.

I wanted to make them look like stainless steel to go with our appliances rather than re-chroming them. The first coat of paint ran and dripped and just looked awful, so I set them aside and started on the top.

I cleaned and painted the base first. So far, so good. It was made of wood so the paint adhered nicely.

The top was a different story. First I taped the black edges and then tried to decide what to do about the stripes. I cut the painter's tape into tiny strips using a rotary cutter and taped all of the black stripes. It was a painstaking process.

When I finished, I spray painted the table using appliance epoxy. It looked great!

I peeled off the tape exposing the black stripes. They were a little dull but not too bad.  This is where I should have stopped.

But, unwilling to leave well enough alone, I decided to paint the black stripes. I started taping the area around the black stripes, but the tape was too wide.

I didn't want to do the painstaking rotary cutter method of cutting the tape to size so I thought I could take the large roll of painters tape and cut off a section of it using the band saw. This was a fiasco. First, the tape roll was too big to fit under the band saw. Tony jumped in at this point to help because he doesn't trust me to use power tools.  We squished the tape roll into an oval shape and held it with a zip tie. When we tried to cut it using the band saw, it tried to spin and jumped out from under the saw. It seemed dangerous, so we decided to resort to using hand tools.  We tried a variety, but none of them would cut the roll of tape. I wound up with a ragged edged cut on one side which was fine, but what wasn't fine was the dirt that had adhered to the straight edge.

I taped off the white part but wasn't confident of the taping skills so rather than spray paint the black lines, I decided to use a a paint brush to paint them. The dirt on the edge of the tape allowed the tape to bleed onto the white paint, but I still thought I could touch it up.

When I pulled the tape off, though, it pulled the white paint off with it. I tried to sand the areas where the missing paint was but this proved rather pointless.

I did the rotary cutter method to cut the tape into strips to cover the black stripes again and repainted the white part using a paint with primer in it.  This time, the tape didn't stick as well and white overspray got on the black lines. AARRGGHH...

I used an artist's paintbrush to try to touch up the black lines but my hand is not as steady as it used to be so the black lines are a bit wavy.

The final product looks okay from a distance, but don't look too closely!