Thursday, September 14, 2017

Zero to Hero - Old Hollow Core Door Makeover

Before                               After
We were orignially going to replace all the ugly hollow core doors in the house, but we decided to save money and do an extreme makeover instead, creating beautiful faux captured panel doors.

The plan was to fashion panels out of moulding, top and bottom to keep it simple, and paint the doors gloss black with good Benjamin Moore paint, and add Baldwin Brass hardware, including hinges. It turned out perfectly, and was good recycling. I hated the idea of all those doors going to the landfill!

Back of door - also a mess! Our girls are artists, and this Studio door shows it. We ended up having little fingerprints all over the house, but this door got the worst of it.

 The Project Begins...

First remove the old hardware. The hardware was ugly and paint covered. Upscale hardware will be the jewelry of this door, and will add some sparkle and really make a big difference!

Next we are going to mark the locations for our woodwork to create the faux panel effect:

I used a combination square set at 4" and marked around all the door edges, sliding it and marking it with a Sharpie as it moved, but you can mark your 4" with a ruler or measuring tape and connect the dots with a yardstick if you like.

 I suggest you use a pencil and not a Sharpie (my mistake) for marking unless you paint the door black, otherwise the Sharpie will bleed through your paint over time. Lesson learned! Once it bleeds through, it's very challenging to cover it up! It just bleeds through the second and third coats until you get ticked off and you hit it with some Kilz primer, and even then... Fortunately, we had always planned for these doors to be black, for a luxe effect.

If your door is still hung on the frame like mine, you will need to use a tape measure to mark 4" from the right and bottom sides of the door, and connect the dots with a ruler. 

To mark where the middle moulding will go, center the tape measure with the #2 in the center of the doorknob opening, and mark 2" up and down from there on the pencil line to create a 4" center rail. If you are a little off, no big deal, nobody will notice. 

Measure the middle woodwork marks you just made, and transfer those marks to the right side of the door. 

Connect the dots left and right to show the middle woodwork locations. The lines should be 4" apart.

The finished woodwork markings should look something like this. The moulding will  fit inside these frames, so the lines indicate the outer edge of the woodwork we will tack onto the door.

Measure your lines. The shorter horizontal pieces will be the same length top and bottom, the vertical pieces will be different lengths top and bottom. I made a quick diagram of the measurements so I could cut the molding correctly, showing the 45 degree angles of the cuts. 

Using your combination square, mark the location and angle of the cut you want to make, and check it against your diagram to get the cut right. Measure off and mark the length you need, in this case 22" from sharp tip to tip (outside thicker dimension). We want the pointed ends of the cut molding to fit just withing the boxes we marked on the door. For non-woodworkers out there, the old saw is "measure twice, cut once" so you don't waste material.

You can make your 45 degree cuts with a cheap mitre box and saw like this, or with a professional chop saw if you have one. I didnt have a chop saw at the time. You can also use a finishing saw and cut without a mitre box, but it is more difficult to get the cuts to fit together snuggly, which is key to making this project look great. Note that the molding I've used is thicker on the outside edge (at the top of the picture), and tapered to thin out on the inside edge to create the faux captured panel look. 

The finished woodwork, lined up like soldiers, and ready to tack onto the door. 

I used a silicone adhesive loaded into my caulk gun to apply in a zigszag pattern to the back of my molding, and pressed this snugly against the inside edge of the box line on the door. You can also use liquid nails or some other fast acting adhesive. The adhesive will hold the molding in place so we can tack the molding on with finishing nails later. 

Fitting the woodwork in place, and tacking it on with small finishing nails. You should fit all the pieces of the top box panel together prior to nailing, so you can reposition pieces for a tight fit. The adhesive I used gave me plenty of time to reposition, which is easily done. Repeat this process for the bottom panel box. 

The nails should be set into the wood with a nail setter once the glue has dried so they don't show, prior to painting. Note the moulding is positioned inside the box with the mitre cuts facing inward.

I found the little molding buggers were shifting a bit as I positioned them, prior to tacking them in place, so I used electrical tape to help with the hold until the glue set. The glue together with the nails should create a good strong hold.

Once the glue sets, and the moulding has been nailed, if there are any small gaps at the mitre or between the door and moulding, you can use the silicone caulk or other caulk to fill the gaps, and wipe away the excess with a finger prior to painting.

Once the glue set, the door was painted with Benjamin Moore Impervex High-Gloss Enamel latex, Black N30980 from the shelf (not custom mixed). I painted along the grain of the wood (pic above right), had the door been a wood door and not hollow core, to complete the illusion of a solid wood door. I covered the hinges with blue painter's tape for a clean paint job. When the paint was dry, I installed the new Baldwin Brass hardware.

 The finished door. The illusion is complete. 

A closer look at the solid brass hardware and the moulding. The jewelry helps make these doors shine! 

One thing I learned from 20 years in the furniture industry, a bit of the really good stuff, like Baldwin Brass knobs, really elevates the entire room, despite the rather humble pedigree of these doors! 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Patio life with an outdoor fireplace and a bonus recipe!

 One of the benefits of where we live is that you can pretty much count on being comfortable outdoors three seasons of the years.  That being said, the early spring and late fall usually require sweaters, scarves, long pants and such. 

One of our favorite outdoor activities is sitting on our patio  (patio cocktails anyone?) which requires an actual source of heat part of the year.  After walking around the neighborhood a few times, checking out other peoples patio/backyard situations, we knew what we needed was an outdoor fire pit.

We went shopping.  Lowe'  Home depot.....nada.  Internet.....tooo many choices.  Our local consignment store.....jackpot!

Enter the Preway fireplace.  This beauty was a pretty common addition to the suburban family room in the 60's and 70's. Braxton's family actually had a black version in their basement.

If you live in a smaller city, like we do, with a plethora of homes build in the mid century, you may come across some great deals on craigslist or consignment stores.  Lot's of people have no idea that what they have is actually really cool and sought after.

I believe we paid somewhere in the neighborhood of 300.00 for ours, which is not in perfect shape.  I just found one on 1st dibs for 1,800.00.  Guess who's feeling pretty smug right now?
As far as I know these were never made to be used outdoors, and I would be really careful about where you place such a thing.  We decided since our patio is brick and there are no trees directly overhead we would be fine.  We never use it if we've had a dry spell and Braxton sometimes hoses down the patio and fence before we light it.  We are veeeery cautious like that.
Bottom line....we love it!  It really makes the whole patio experience so much richer.  We've used it to make s'mores and I'm dying to try one of those popcorn gizmos!

Now that you've stuck with's recipe time.

                                          Pork, Pear and Potato Pie....oh my!
1 large sweet potato, thinly sliced.
3 cups cubed, cooked, pork tenderloin*
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 green pear, cored and thinly sliced
1 32 oz. box  chicken broth
1 tbs butter
1 tbs all purpose flour
1 small hand full of fresh rosemary, chopped
black pepper
1 pie crust ( store bought is fine)

Lightly oil a large pie pan or med sized casserole dish.
Layer the sweet potato on the bottom of the dish, followed by the pork, onion, then the sliced pear.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Make a roux by melting the butter over med. heat in a small sauce pan.  Add the flour and whisk until flour begins to brown.  Slowly add the chicken broth, while whisking, and cook until sauce thickens.
Carefully pour the sauce over the potato, pork, onion and pear.
Cover with the the pie crust.
Place pie pan (or casserole) on a foil lined cookie sheet.
Bake in a preheated 350/375 degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes.

Can this be assembled ahead of time?  Why yes.  I had a late afternoon skype date with my daughter, so I made the pie earlier in the day, refrigerated it, then cooked it for dinner.
*  I used leftover pork tenderloin that had been cooked with a generous and spicy dry rub.  The spices imparted wonderful flavor!

You are definitely going back for seconds!

Thanks for stopping in!


Monday, July 10, 2017

How to care for your clothes

I hate to start with a disclaimer, but......the following is not exactly the final word in keeping  ones wardrobe presentable. I am simply sharing a few tips and hints that have worked for me over the years.  Please use common sense and always consult the washing label inside your garment.  That being said, I do actually have years of experience doing laundry!

Onto the tips:

*  Before putting your clothes in the clothes hamper, turn each item inside out.

*If an item is stained try to wash it immediately.  This is especially important for perspiration/ deodorant stains. Yellow underarm stains are less likely if you wash right away.

*Every item does not need to be washed after every wearing.  Washing machines are hard on your clothes.  Sometimes all an item needs is a good airing.  Use good judgement here.

*  If an item is especially dear, consider allowing it to air dry rather than put in the electric dryer.  The heat and aggitation caused by a dryer is really hard on your clothes.  If you decide to air dry an item turn it right side out before hanging.

* If an item is heavy, (sweaters) or especially delicate (underthings), it's a better idea to lay it flat rather than hang on a hanger in order to maintain it's shape.

Let's talk about dry cleaning.  I try to avoid it for most things but there are a few fabrics (leather and fur) which are best left to professionals.  Also, if you own an item that is really very precious to you and are wanting to keep it forever, I would seek professional advice on how best to clean.  I also have most outer garments such as coats and jackets dry cleaned.

Two ways I avoid dry cleaning:
* Whenever possible I buy 100 percent cotton items which clearly state on the label that they are machine washable.

* The hand wash cycle on my washing machine.
I doubt every machine has this option, and I'll admit it took me quite awhile to trust it, but I have had really good luck so far.  Definitely turn the item inside out, use a mild detergent meant for hand washing, and most importantly DO NOT put in the dryer.

Every item of clothing, from a nice dress to a cheap t-shirt, will benefit from ironing, it makes everything look nicer.  If you take an hour a week to iron you can avoid that moment when the one thing you want to wear is the one thing that's wrinkeled.  No fun.

Ironing doesn't take much skill but you will get better with practice.  A steam iron is best for that super crisp look.  No need for starch, in fact it will clog the steam vents over time.  If you are living in a dorm room I suggest a small sized ironing board.  We've all ironed on the bed in a pinch but a ironing board is necessary if you want you clothes to look great.

Definitely follow the guidelines for your iron.  You do not want to iron a delicate fabric (silk) on the cotton setting! It seems unnecessary to say but....never leave a iron laying face down on a garment.  It will burn.

The crazy symbols on the tag?  They are important!  Google and print a guide for your laundry room, it will save you a lot of guesswork.

How you choose to store your clothes is really a matter of preference.  However, once you have taken the time to iron a garment you will probably want to hang it up.  No need for expensive hangers, but your clothes deserve better than those thin wire ones.  Buy yourself some thick plastic hangers, your clothes will thank you.

If you would like more of these helpful hints please let me know.  I'm here for ya.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Our trip to The Virginia Military Institute in Lexington Virginia

Welcome to the oldest state supported military college in America.

VMI has graduated more army generals than any other ROTC program.

Believe me, no one goes to VMI for the creature comforts.  The accommodations, if we can call them that, are sparse.  Cadets sleep on cots which they roll up every morning and "air out" every Monday.  "Rats", or freshman, are allowed no t.v., no music, and no unsupervised phone calls.

VMI and Washington and Lee University are very close neighbors, if you've ever been to Lexington you know what I mean by that.  The term for new cadets, "rats", was actually first used by W&L students to describe the marching cadets in their gray uniforms.  In turn the cadets referred to W&L students as "minks" because most came from wealthy families.

Unlike all other service colleges, VMI graduates are free to pursue civilian careers or join any military branch.

The Virginia Military Institute was the last military college in the U.S. to accept women, in fact they didn't accept females until the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for a state supported institution to discriminate against women.  VMI briefly considered becoming a private college in order to avoid having to accept females, they wisely changed their minds and the first female cadets entered the school in 1997.  Trust me, this was a  big deal in Virginia at the time!

VMI has a strict single sanction honor code: "a cadet does not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do."  A violation mean immediate expulsion. Period.

And on a lighter note, this is my sad attempt at a selfie.  This is how it's done right?  Send help if you must.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Our trip to Mabry Mill in Meadows of Dan Virginia

Welcome to the most photographed spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Mr. Mabry (Ed) began construction of his water powered mill in 1903.   Once it was completed in 1905, is was in turn a blacksmith, a wheelwright shop, then finally a grist mill.

The water which powered the mill was carried along this wooden race.  Over time is has sprung quite a few leaks which create waterfalls.

One of the many lovely pathways.

If you get a chance to visit during mountain laurel season, you won't be disappointed.

There was a park ranger demonstrating basket weaving techniques.  This one is called a rump basket .  If Mrs. Mabry needed to carry something with her when riding a horse, this basket fit nicely on the horses rump.

A gorgeous spinning wheel.  Apparently Mrs. Mabry didn't actually spin because, as the ranger told me, she was more of an outdoor girl, in fact she preferred to work in the mill along side her husband.

One of the park rangers made this lovely piece using the loom which is inside the house.  Unfortunately the buildings were too dark inside for photos.

 A whiskey still in the woods.  Welcome to the mountains y'all.

The Mabry's neighbors in the community would bring their corn to be milled.  The payment to Mr. Mabry was 1/8 of the ground meal.

The restaurant at Mabry Mill is quite rustic.  By rustic I mean it isn't air conditioned, which this charming fellow wasn't happy about.

The famous sweet potato pancakes tasted like Thanksgiving!  So good.

Every Sunday afternoon in summer their is live blue grass music and if you're there in the fall you can watch them make apple butter in a cauldron over a fire.  You can smell the scent for miles!
 The next time you're heading south on the Blue Ridge Parkway, check out Mabry Mill in Meadows of Dan Virginia.


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