Crafting | A winter village of little white houses

Little White Houses Winter Village

Today’s snowstorm kept me home from work and school and gave me a chance to finally finish a craft project I had started before Christmas: a mini winter village.

shelves holding little white houses with tin roofs, nail chimneys and faux snow around them

It was originally supposed to be a mini Christmas village, but since I didn’t get it done til now I’m rebranding it and leaving it set up for another month (or more if I remove the faux snow).

Mini birdhouses before being transformed into a mini Christmas village

My mini village actually started out as a bunch of tiny birdhouses.

mini birdhouses before being transformed into mini Christmas village

I was buying these little buildings at thrift stores and garage sales for a long time with no clear idea of what I was going to do with them.

mini birdhouses before being transformed into a mini Christmas village

Then as the holiday shopping season got underway, I started seeing cute little house-shaped ornaments and Christmas villages popping up all over, and I suddenly knew my birdhouse collection was destined to become its own one-of-a-kind small town.

turning mini birdhouses into a mini village

To transform the buildings from mini birdhouses into mini people houses, I pried most of the roofs off (with plans to replace them) and sketched windows onto the exteriors.

using a woodburner to burn window outlines into little houses

Then I broke out my woodburner and attempted to trace over my window lines.

little bird houses being transformed into a mini village

I’ve had a woodburner in my crafting stash forever, but this is the first time I’ve actually used it. I quickly discovered it takes a steady hand to make straight lines and even impressions in wood. I also discovered my hand is anything but steady.

tiny houses being transformed from birdhouses into a mini village

It also became apparent to me that no two mini birdhouses are made of the same type of wood. I found myself constantly applying too little pressure on hard wood, which meant I barely scratched the surface, and then too much pressure on soft wood, in which case the wood would almost melt away under the hot tip.

Little white houses in a Christmas village display

When I finished the woodburning, I patched up my deepest and most blatant oopses with woodfiller, then slathered a coat or two of white chalk paint over the buildings.

I also distressed the edges of the houses, which hopefully makes the cattywampus windows look kind of intentional.

mini Christmas village, made from small birdhouses painted white with woodburned windows

As I mentioned earlier, I had plans to make new roofs for the houses, but by the time I got this far, it was almost Christmas and I didn’t have any more free time for crafting.

I set a few of my half-finished houses out on display with some vintage bottlebrush trees and some faux snow and called the project done …

cutting corrugated tin for roofs of mini houses in winter village

… until today, when our forecast called for 5-10 inches of snow. I decided to stay safe and stay off the roads, which meant I finally had a free day and no excuse to put off re-roofing my houses any longer.

crafting metal roofs for tiny houses in a winter village

I made the roofs out of a roll of corrugated tin that I had found at a thrift store for $1.50. The tin was surprisingly easy to cut with a regular old utility scissors.

attaching a tin roof to mini house

After I cut the tin to the right size for each house, I bent the pieces in half and glued the roofs onto their respective houses with Gorilla glue.

mini white wooden house with tin roof

Ta da.

overhead view of corrugated tin roofs on mini houses

Here’s an aerial view of a few of the houses. (The house on the far left had a four-sided roof, which required a slightly different technique and a few tack nails to secure it, since the glue didn’t want to hold there.)

two little white houses in a mini winter village

I thought I was done at this point, but when I looked at the houses, I realized they needed one finishing touch yet: chimneys.

rusty nails to use as smokestacks for mini houses

I’ve been ogling driftwood cottages on Pinterest lately, and a lot of them have nails for chimneys or smokestacks, so I decided I’d totally steal that idea. I also stole a handful of the rustiest, crustiest old nails I could find in my husband’s workshop. I’m pretty sure he won’t miss them.

drilling a hole into the roof of a miniature house in order to insert a nail chimney

Then I drilled pilot holes through the roofs and into the wood …

completed little white house with a nail poking through the roof to serve as a smokestack or chimney

… so I could pound nails in with ease (and without splitting the wood).

completed little white wooden house with a nail for a smokestack/chimney

The chimneys required a lot of extra putzing, but they were worth it.

tall house in Christmas village display

The little chimneys give the houses so much more character, don’t they?

a row of three little white houses with tin roofs and nail chimneys

I put some of the chimneys on the left and some on the right, to make each house unique. I also added a few random tack nails here and there to help hold down the roofs where the glue had come loose while I was pounding the chimneys in. But the tack nails also add a little charm, too.

distressed little white house with rusty nail chimney

I ended up bending and scratching some of the roofs as I was pounding in nails, but I think that gives the houses a more weathered look, in keeping with the cattywompus-windows-and-distressed-paint theme.

shelves holding little white houses with tin roofs, nail chimneys and faux snow around them

Anyhoo, my little post-Christmas winter village is now done. If only our (real-world) snowstorm was as well …

four-sided mini house with a nail chimney

2018: The year in review

Happy new year, blog friends. As 2018 winds to a close, I’m taking a look back on some of my blog highlights from the past year.

This is probably going to be a pretty short post because the blog was collecting cobwebs for much of the year whilst I was busy doing real-life stuff: school, work, remodeling our bathroom, planning for our son’s wedding in June, etc.

My son and daughter-in-law with my two grandkitties

Here’s a picture of my son and daughter-in-law and my two new grandkitties. Aren’t they just the most adorable couple? The humans are kinda cute, too.

Anyhoo, in between all the schooling and working and wedding planning and such, I squeezed in a little time for the blog. The biggest thing I did was update my site and move it to WordPress over the summer. Even though it didn’t result in any new content, setting up the new site and re-formatting all the old posts was a huge time suck.

Then right after I finished the update, I took a class in digital design and learned the right way to build a website. Next time I attempt an undertaking like this, I should probably take the class first, before I blindly plow ahead and try to figure things out on the fly.

My favorite posts

As for posts in 2018, my personal favorites were …

White chalk-painted wicker wreath with newspaper chicks and flowers

… my newspaper chicks wreath, which I wrote about in April.

Black and white chalk-painted address sign by Wisconsin Magpie

… the home address sign that I painted in March.

Turkey assemblage made from metal and aluminum kitchenware and garden trowel feet

… the two turkeybots I created (with a little help from my husband) before Thanksgiving, including one I made from a bundt pan and a vintage juicer

Turkey bot assemblage made of thrift-store junk

… and one I made from an old funnel, apple slicer and coffee basket.

bathroom with white wood walls, subway-tiled shower stall and red accents

I was also kind of partial to the posts I wrote about our new, improved downstairs bathroom.

Your favorite post

Hands-down my readers’ favorite post of 2018 was the one about my woven rope wreath.

Sisal rope woven wreath

Technically, the post was published in December of 2017, but I’m counting it among this year’s offerings because it was literally my most-viewed post every single day in 2018.

Photos from that post have been shared thousands of times on Pinterest, and based almost entirely on that one wreath, Pinterest has become by far my biggest referrer (where most of my blog traffic comes from).

Screen shot of wisconsinmagpie.com Pinterest pins showing pictures of woven sisal rope wreath

I’ve had a few posts that have captured a bigger-than-average audience before, but this one blew them all away — and has actually made it fun to read my blog analytics.

Every time I notice a bump in pageviews, I put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and investigate. Usually what I discover is that that my rope wreath post got shared by a bigger blog or website. In the last couple weeks, for example, the post was shared by a Canadian lumberyard, an Arizona blogger and a digital design magazine, and I’ve been getting referral traffic from all three. (And if any of those publishers are reading this now, thank you!)

I’ve also gotten a ton of emails from random people asking questions about the wreath. Apparently my directions lacked a few key details, like how much rope it took, what size of rope I used and how big my wreath frame was. For the record, the answers are 50-ish feet, 1/4-inch and 12 inches, and, for the millionth time, here’s a link to the rope I used.

Next time, I’ll try to give better directions up front, although I don’t mind getting questions. Up ’til now, this blog has mostly been a one-way communication tool, and I have to say it’s nice to hear from actual readers, even if they’re taking me to task for giving half-baked instructions.

In other fun/frightening news

In other blog-related news, I made my first-ever IGTV video this year. It didn’t exactly break the internet with the number of views, but it was fun/frightening to try something new.

I’m not sure how serious I am about getting into IGTV, as filming myself is waaay outside of my comfort zone, as you can probably tell by my not-quite-Oscar-worthy on-camera performance. But as somebody who was a print newspaper designer for too many years, the fear of getting left behind (again) is a strong motivator to adapt to new media.

makeshift studio set up in the basement with lights, tripod and table

For Christmas this year, my newlywed son, who is also a filmmaker, set up a little photo/video studio for me in my basement. It’s very simple, but it’s got lights in all the right places and an actual tripod for my phone/camera to sit on, so my signature move of shooting with one wobbly hand whilst I attempt to demonstrate something with my slightly-less-wobbly other hand may be a thing of the past.

New year, new goals

As for the year ahead, I look forward to lots of collecting, crafting and creating and hopefully a few more videos (with fewer wobbles in them).

In a perfect world, I’d resolve to create a post a week or some such specific number — because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all the marketing classes I’ve been taking lately it’s that goals should be SMART (Significant, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-based). But, the reality is, I blog for fun, not profit, so I sneak in blogging time when I can, and committing to a specific number of posts per week or per month is just not going to happen. Some days I have free time. Some days I don’t.

I do really love having a home on the interwebs, though, so I’m definitely going to keep at it as time allows.

If you want to see what’s next, follow me on social media or sign up to get my posts emailed to you. And if you’ve got any questions or comments, leave them below. I really do love to hear from readers, especially when they’re not yelling at me for screwing something up.

Making a vertical video of the junk-turkey-making process

Still image of a sideways junk turkey video

I made my first IGTV video. And also my first vertical video (because that’s IGTV’s thing). I hope to do more of these, so follow me on Instagram if you want to see them. 

I’m not guaranteeing they’re going to be any good because I really have no idea what I’m doing. So far I’m shooting with my phone, uploading footage to iMovie and then editing my vertical shots into a horizontal format (because as far as I can tell that’s the only way iMovie lets you edit). Basically that means I’m craning my neck 90 degrees the entire time I’m editing.

After I save the completed sideways video, I open it in Quick Time and rotate it 90 degrees to make it vertical. Then I upload it to IGTV.

There’s got to be an easier way, right?  I suspect it might involve learning Adobe Premiere, which I have successfully avoided so far.

Anybody got any tips for me on video editing, IGTV and/or non-surgical neck-pain-relief techniques? Please share in the comments below. I need all the help I can get. 

Making another thrift-store junk turkey

Aluminum coffee filter basket, apple corer, funnel, measuring cup, silver tray and small metal pieces
Aluminum coffee filter basket, apple corer, funnel, measuring cup, silver tray and small metal pieces

I finished building another junk turkey, just (barely) before my self-imposed Thanksgiving deadline.

Aluminum apple corer slicer

This was my starting point this time. You know how some people look at clouds and see animals or objects in them? That’s how I look at thrift store kitchen gadgets. But instead of seeing animals or objects, I see turkey parts.

When I happened upon this vintage apple corer/slicer a while back, I saw turkey wings.  I had no idea what I would attach the wings to, but I assumed I could figure it out as I went along. And I did. The hunt for pieces and the mental challenge of puzzling out how those pieces are going to fit together is the most fun part of making these birds.

Turkey bot assemblage made of thrift-store junk

This is my completed turkey. If you couldn’t see wings in the apple corer before, hopefully you can now.

It was a long process to finish this guy.

Junk turkey parts including an apple corer resting on top of a coffee basket

For a long time, he just looked like the photo above: an apple corer stacked on top of a coffeepot basket that I found in my basement from a previous thrift store outing. Every time I’d see the two pieces together, I’d wonder what I could use for a head and feet.

Silver Metal Drawer Pull

The feet are always the hardest part for me to find because, as a general rule, turkeys have two legs, and when I’m out thrift store shopping, I rarely find two of anything.

This time around I realized a metal drawer pull I had in my basement stash would work for the feet. Even though it’s one piece, it kind of looks like two. And it’s solid metal, so it’s got some heft to it, which I hoped would mean that it would be able keep a turkey standing upright.

Drill piercing the middle of a thick metal drawer pull

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to drill through the heavy chunk of metal, so I asked my husband, who is becoming somewhat of an expert in the field of junk turkey engineering. He assured me it was possible and even volunteered to do it for me.  

Coffee grounds basket attached to a metal drawer pull by a bolt

Once holes were drilled in both the drawer pull and the coffee basket, I attached the two with a bolt.

Aluminum 1/3 cup with hole drilled through it

I didn’t have anything in my stash to use as a head, so I headed back to the thrift store. When I found this aluminum measuring cup, I thought I was onto something, because it was the right size for a turkey head and the handle could work as his neck. Plus, the measuring cup already had a hole drilled through the bottom of the handle which would make it easy to attach it to the rest of the body.

measuring cup with metal discs for eyes and a beak

Initially I was thinking I’d use the back of the measuring cup as the face and glue on some smaller metal pieces for the eyes and beak …

Aluminum funnel on top of measuring cup

… but then I found this aluminum funnel in my stash. The big end of the funnel was basically the same diameter as the measuring cup, which gave me the idea to stack them like so, making the spout end of the funnel a built-in beak.

Small aluminum funnel with a bolt pushed into the spout

To assemble the head, I slid a bolt through the beak …

The two pieces of the turkey's head: an aluminum measuring cup and a funnel

… and drilled a hole in the back of the measuring cup.

Funnel and measuring cup held together by a bolt

Then I just had to slide the bolt through the hole and secure it with a nut.

With the head squared away, I went to work on his body. I found a bolt and washer to slide through the apple corer and the measuring cup. Unfortunately when I tried to slide on the next piece — the coffee basket — I discovered that the turkey’s neck wobbled around. My husband came up with the perfect solution for that. 

Apple corer balanced on a  sawhorse as a man cuts a small notch into the top of the apple corer

He cut a notch out of the top of the apple corer using his hacksaw.

Here’s what the apple corer looked like with the notch cut out of it …

… and here it is with the measuring cup resting inside the notch.

Next, I ran the bolt through the turkey’s coffee basket body.

silver tray with a bolt through it to make a tail for a junk turkey

Then I drilled a hole in a silver tray that I found to use as his tail feathers. I stacked the tray behind the coffee basket, ran the bolt through the hole and put a nut on the end of it to hold everything in place.

Then I held my breath and crossed my fingers as I stood the almost-completed turkey on his feet, hoping that he wouldn’t wobble and topple over.

Phew. No wobbling. The heavy cabinet pull base did the trick.

Metal turkey parts joined together and

All I had left to do at that point was to glue some metal discs onto the turkey’s head to create eyes. I painted the smaller inner circles black (with acrylic craft paint) to make them stand out.

Here he is, all ready for Thanksgiving 2018.

Turkey bot assemblage made of thrift-store junk

Isn’t he cute?

Turkey bot assemblage make of thrift store junk

Once again, I am totally smitten with one of these guys. They each have their own personality. I think this one needs a name to match his. Anybody have any ideas? Let me know in the comments below if you do.

Building a turkey-bot assemblage from vintage kitchenware

Bundt pan, aluminum juicer, garden trowels and other parts to make a junk turkey assemblage with

If it’s November, it’s time to make the Thanksgiving bird. Here are the ingredients I used to make mine:

Bundt pan, aluminum juicer, lids and garden trowels used to assemble a junk turkey

And here’s what he ended up looking like when he was all done:

Turkey assemblage made from metal and aluminum kitchenware

I call him “TurkeyBot 2018.”

1950s aluminum juicer used in robot turkey assemblage

The idea for this guy started with a vintage aluminum juicer that I found in a thrift store. The second I saw it, I knew it was a turkey head. It just needed a body to go with it.

Old Bundt pan that will become part of a junk robot turkey assemblage

Then I found an old beat-up Bundt pan. It was a match made in thrift store heaven. The hole in the middle of it wasn’t ideal, because, in my experience, turkeys don’t generally have giant holes through the middle of their bodies. But I figured I could plug the hole with a small metal lid.

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Fortunately, I had a large stash of random metal lids at home — which I keep on hand for emergency situations such as this one.  I was thrilled to find one that was not only the perfect size, but also a perfect match color- and patina-wise.

The lid had a knob on top of it back when I brought it home, but I ended up removing it last year …

Junk turkey assemblage made from old Jell-O mold, miniature tart mold, old knobs and other metal parts

… to use as the face for this little robot turkey. I remember wondering at the time if I should throw the leftover knobless lid out, but my inner hoarding tendencies told me I would regret it if I did. As usual, my inner hoarding tendencies won out, and, at least in this case, it was worth it.

Assembling a junk turkey from an aluminum canister lid and Bundt pan

So here’s the knobless lid filling in the gap in the middle of the Bundt pan body.

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And here’s the pan that I found at another a thrift store to use as the tail feathers. I thought the fluted edge kind of looked like feathers and would give the turkey a little dimension.

Crafting a junk turkey robot out of aluminum pans, lids and a vintage juicer

See? He’s starting to look like a turkey, right?

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Here’s what I found for the legs/feet. They were some sort of gardening implements in their previous life, but, just like with the juicer, I knew immediately when I saw them that they were destined to become turkey parts.

Two small pilot holes drilled into a Bundt pan being used in a junk turkey assemblage

I got the husband to help me with the next step — drilling holes into the Bundt pan where the legs would be inserted. (He’s much handier with power tools than I am.) He recommended we drill pilot holes first and then … …

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… use a paddle bit to drill out a larger hole.

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Ta da.

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At this point, I decided the idea of green turkey feet was utterly ridiculous. Everyone knows aluminum turkeys should have yellow feet. So I unscrewed the feet from the legs and gave them a little makeover.

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I also put a coat of gel stain on the wooden legs to make them a bit darker.

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Then I drilled screws into the legs about halfway up, to keep the legs suspended inside the Bundt pan.

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I ended up stringing a rubber band between the legs inside the Bundt pan, to keep a little tension between them and keep the feet facing forward.

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From there, I started assembling the rest of the body. I ran a 4-inch bolt through the base of the turkey’s neck (and secured it with a nut underneath it.) Then I put the bolt through the knobless lid …

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… and put a couple of rubber grommets on the bottom of the bolt, where it goes through the hole in the Bundt pan. I think the grommets are supposed to keep the bolt in place, but I’m not 100 percent sure on that. The grommets were the husband’s idea. He’s my chief engineer and troubleshooter when I make turkey robots. I always show him my plans before I get started on projects, and then he shoots them down and comes up with alternate ideas that will work in reality instead of just in my head.

A bolt holds metal pieces of kitchen junk together in a turkey assemblage.

Here’s the back side of the tail feathers, with the bolt sticking out of the rubber grommets in the middle of the Bundt pan.

The back of a metal turkey assemblage made from kitchenware

And here’s what I used to keep everything in place: another random metal lid from my collection.

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I screwed a rusty nut onto the end of the bolt that was poking out through the hole in the metal lid.

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Then my turkey just needed a face.

Junk turkey assemblage with metal eyes being placed on aluminum juicer face

The discs that I used for the eyes were actually made of wood. I base coated them with black acrylic paint and then put a layer of watered-down silver paint over top of that to make them look like metal.

Vintage aluminum juicer that resembles a turkey face with two metal discs on it that look like eyes

The black circles in the middle of the eyes are washers that I painted.

Junk turkey assemblage made from a Bundt pan, canister lid, aluminum juicer, garden trowels and other kitchenware pieces

And here he is, all ready for Thanksgiving: TurkeyBot 2018.

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I have lots more random parts in my basement, so hopefully I will have time to make at least one more turkey assemblage before Thanksgiving. If not, maybe they’ll become parts to a robot reindeer or junk snowman. Any other fall/winter/Christmas -themed assemblages you’d like to see? I love making turkeys, but maybe it’s time I start branching out. Leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Bathroom remodel | A do-it-yourself farmhouse-style makeover

textured wallpaper being covered by tongue-and-groove pine

When I left off in my last post, our downstairs bathroom looked something like this:

white medicine cabinet

We had just tiled the shower — and it looked fabulous  — but the rest of the room was still stuck in a 1995 time warp. We wanted to update the room with modern materials but also make it look like it belonged in the vintage farmhouse that it actually resides in.

The first thing we had to address was the yellow textured wallpaper, which was covering a layer of blue plastic paneling. And the blue plastic paneling was covering a layer of very old, very cracked plaster. None of the layers was pretty.

reversible knotty pine planking

We’ve swallowed enough plaster dust in DIYs past that the idea of demolishing the walls and hanging new drywall didn’t sound all that appealing.

We figured it would be easier — and less plaster-dusty — just to cover the old walls with another layer: this time, tongue-and-groove pine planking.

walls with pine tongue-and-groove on the bottom and wider planks on the top

The boards we used were reversible, with narrow strips of beadboard on one side and wider planks on the other. We decided to use the narrow beadboard side vertically on the bottom of the walls and the wider planked side horizontally on the top.

textured wallpaper being covered by tongue-and-groove pine

This is the wall where the sink and the medicine cabinet normally hang. Jim took them down to install planks there. (The hole in the wall was already there; it had just been hidden behind the medicine cabinet. That’s where the vanity light hooks into the electrical system.)

wall in front of shower with pine planks installed

On the shower wall  we decided to use the wider planks. Just because.

trim around edges of pine planks

We covered all the raw edges with trim pieces.

cracks that need to be caulked

After we had all the boards installed, we painted everything white — it took three coats to cover and to get paint into all the nooks and crannies. (Let me tell you, beadboard is nothing but nooks and crannies.) Then when we were finally done painting, we had to fill in the cracks between boards with caulk. (And there were lots of cracks.)

Jim rehanging the sink on the wall

After painting and caulking, it was time to start re-assembling things.

As you may have noticed, this bathroom is really tiny. It’s about 6 feet wide by 6 feet deep — with the shower literally 3 feet from the door.

compact 20

Our old sink was a compact 20 inches wide by 16 inches deep, which was the right size for the space — plus, it was still in pretty good shape — so we decided to keep it.

sink with old-fashioned rubber stopper on a chain

The pop-up drain assembly wasn’t functional anymore, but that was an easy fix. We replaced it with a brand new old-fashioned rubber stopper on a chain. I didn’t know they even made these any more, until Jim brought one home after one of his many runs to the hardware store.

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Like the textured wallpaper, the old medicine cabinet (which had a built-in Hollywood-style lightbulb strip at the top) also had outstayed its welcome. I wanted to replace it with a vintage mirror and put a black barn light above it. Jim wasn’t feeling the vintage mirror. He thought a medicine cabinet would be more “practical.”

low-profile white medicine cabinet

I may have treated him to one of my signature passive-aggressive eye rolls when he said that, but I let him get his way. Mostly so I could use it as leverage when it came time to choose a light fixture.

I’d been ogling black barn lights online for months before we started this project and had an entire Pinterest board full of them. I was willing to give in on the mirror, but the black barn light was non-negotiable.

red barn light from Home Depot

Here’s the light fixture I ended up buying.

red barn light installed in bathroom

You may have noticed it’s an odd shade of black.

Home Depot was sold out of black barn lights on the day I went to buy one. They had this red one in stock, though, and I fell in love with it on the spot.

red barn light above medicine cabinet

Apparently I’m fickle that way.

bathroom with white plank walls, red barn light, pedestal sink and subway tile in the shower

Jim actually liked the red barn light, too, so maybe I should have fought harder for the vintage mirror. Sigh.

Anyhoo, Home Depot sells this light fixture in their outdoor lighting department, not in their bathroom lighting department, but electric lights are electric lights. There’s no reason you can’t use an “outdoor light” in an indoor bathroom.

white towel with red stripes hanging on chrome towel bar

Our old chrome towel bars were still in good shape, so we re-hung them.

brown louvered closet door with small cabinet knob

Then I turned my attention to the closet door that I had been passive-aggressively ignoring because I didn’t know what to do with it. My original plan had been to paint the door black to match the black barn light I was going to buy. But when the light fixture ended up being red, I had to reassess the situation. My gut said I should paint the door red now, but the cautious part of my brain said a red door might be crazy.

bathroom closet with door open showing cluttered interior shelves

As I dithered about what to do with the the door, I decided to pull everything out of the closet to redo the inside.

cabinet shelf with dated blue and mauve quilt-square-style shelf paper

The 1980s called. They wanted their shelf paper back.

dated shelf paper being peeled off of wooden shelf

The wood underneath the shelf paper was pretty rough — but I figured a good sanding and a coat (or three) of paint would make it look like new.

bathroom cabinet with fresh coat of white paint on interior

Here’s the inside of the closet after it was all painted.

closet door on saw horses with a gallon of primer setting on it

And here’s the door, just as I was starting on the first coat of primer, which was followed by three coats of …

bathroom closet with red painted door

… red paint. Now that I look at it, I don’t know why I dithered.

close-up of brushed silver handle on red closet door

We bought a new handle for the door to replace the little knob that had been there before.

two open shelves above red closet door

We decided not to reinstall the upper cabinet door, which wasn’t so much a door as it was a piece of plywood with a handle on it. It didn’t match the lower door in style, and once I had the inside of the cabinet painted, I thought it would look better to leave the top two shelves open.

galvanized metal containers

I looked all over for baskets that would be the right dimensions for the shelves. The best option I could find were these galvanized steel tubs that were on Walmart’s website. They were sold out online, though, so I had to go store to store looking for them. I found one at the Beaver Dam store. Then I struck out at the Monona store, the Sun Prairie store and the Portage store. Finally I found a second one in Baraboo (and it was the last one they had left). Apparently these were a popular item.

small red bathroom garbage can

I had plenty of red paint left over, so I painted our old garbage can to match the door.

bathroom with white wood walls, subway-tiled shower stall and red accents

Here’s the whole room today. (Or at least as much of it as I could get in a picture.)

3/4 bathroom with yellow textured wallpaper, green shower curtain, pedestal sink and dated medicine cabinet with Hollywood-style lightbulbs at the top

And, as a reminder, here’s what it used to look like.

We still have to redo the floor. We just placed an order for black cement tile. It’s supposed to come in in the beginning of October. This will be our first time laying floor tile. If it turns out OK, I might blog about it. If it doesn’t, let’s just pretend I never mentioned it.

Thanks for reading. As always, let me know what you think. Unless you think my red barn light sucks, in which case you’re already dead to me, so don’t bother.

Bathroom remodel: Installing subway tile in the shower

lath on walls inside shower stall

Today’s post is about home decor, which, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know is a topic I don’t write about very often. If you’re wondering why, allow me to introduce Exhibit A: “My Downstairs Bathroom, circa 2017.”

3/4 bathroom before remodeling

About the only good thing I can say about the room is that it’s slightly less ugly at the time that this picture was taken than it was when we first bought the house 20 years earlier. Back then the walls were covered in shiny robin’s egg blue plastic paneling.

We wanted to pull the paneling down as soon as we moved in, but the plaster walls underneath it were cracked beyond redemption. In order to avoid a full-on, down-to-the-studs remodel (which we were already doing in several other rooms at the time) we decided to just hang wallpaper over top of the paneling and call it done. (I believe this is what technically is referred to as “a half-assed job.”)

The wallpaper was supposed to be a short-term fix, until we had the remodeling finished in the other rooms and had saved up some cash to tackle the bathroom properly. But somehow two decades went by and we were still living with that “short-term” solution.

shower stall with plastic shower surround

Then last fall a pipe sprang a leak, and we had to take down the plastic shower surround to access the plumbling in the wall.

cracked plaster wall inside shower stall

Here’s what we uncovered behind the shower surround. Those aren’t ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics you’re looking at; they’re dried glue trails. Apparently the DIY’ers before us wanted to make extra sure the plastic was adhered securely. They succeeded. That plastic put up quite a fight as we pried it off the wall and wrestled it to the ground. By the time we got it down, it was ripped and cracked and destined for Shower Surround Heaven.

We figured the ruined surround was a sign that it was time to finally get serious about making renovations. So after Jim fixed the leaky pipe, we pulled the crumbling plaster off the wall and made plans to hang subway tile.

lath on walls inside shower stall

Here’s the old lath that was behind the plaster. Pretty, right? Unfortunately, we had to remove it, too, so we could hang concrete backerboard.

concrete backerboard inside shower stall

Here’s the backerboard, partially installed. You have to use this stuff (as opposed to regular drywall) in places like shower stalls because it’s mold- and mildew-resistant.

Once we had the backerboard up, it was time to start tiling.

shower stall with seven rows of tile laid

When it comes to Cestkowski family DIY projects, our general division of labor goes something like this:

Things that require brute force and/or the use of power tools: Jim.

Things that require patience and/or attention to detail: Lisa.

Ergo, most of the project up until this point was on Jim. Tiling was on me.

subway tile with plastic spacers between

For the most part, I just worked from the bottom up, setting the tile in a “running bond pattern” so that every other row lined up. To ensure that the tiles were equidistant from each other, I wedged these god-awful spacers in between each one.

In all fairness, our spacers were probably no worse than any other spacers out there, but I had tiled once before — in our upstairs bathroom — and the tiles I had used then had bumpouts on their edges. The bumpouts made spacers unnecessary. I didn’t know how much easier that made the tiling process until I started working on this project.

shower stall in the process of being tiled with subway tile in a running bond pattern

The plastic spacers were my nemesis. Every time I would nudge a tile one way or the other, the nearby tiles would shift, and all of the spacers around them would drop to the floor. Then I’d have to bend down, pick up the fallen spacers and replace them before I could set the next tile.

I wish I could tell you I eventually figured out a way to stop the spacers from falling, but I didn’t.

shower stall with subway tile being hung

Despite the cursed spacers, I eventually made progress.

shower stall before tiling inset shelf

Jim helped out by trimming the tiles to fit in all the spots where I needed partials,  drilling holes for the spigots and shower head, and, most importantly, nodding sympathetically every time I went off on a profanity-laden rant about the evils of plastic spacers.

shower stall after tiling inset shelf

When I got to the inset shelf, I had no idea what I was going to do. Then we found this 12-inch-by-12-inch mosaic tile at Menards. It filled the niche almost perfectly.  Maybe that’s what these tiles are designed for? I don’t know. I could write a book, or at least a blog post, about what I don’t know about tiling.

subway tile with grout

Eventually, I got the tiles all adhered — hallelujah! — and it was time to grout. This was actually my favorite part of the process. There’s something really satisfying about smooshing grout into the cracks between the tiles and seeing what the finished wall is going to look like.

I was more than a little surprised to see how straight all my lines ended up. It almost looks like I knew what I was doing.

chrome shower head inside newly tiled shower stall

With the grouting complete, Jim installed a new shower head …

close up of hot and cold water handles in shower

… and new hot and cold water taps.

shower stall with white subway tile

Ta-da. This project was a pain, but we were very happy with the results. In fact, we were so happy with it that we decided to keep going with the renovations. More on that in my next post.

And if you’re interested in seeing what became of that beautiful lath that we pulled down, check out this post.

Welcome to the new, improved Wisconsin Magpie

vintage fan, lunchbox, typography and metal box

newspaper-covered plastic chick in front of a silhouette of the state of WisconsinWelcome to the new, improved Wisconsin Magpie. The blog, that is, not the blogger. Sadly, I am still the same old angst-ridden, out-of-shape, puddle of indecision and self-doubt that I have always been. But the blog is all bright and shiny and new, thanks to a move from an antiquated beginner-level Blogger template to a grown-up WordPress one.

Frankly, I am a little giddy just thinking about all the fancy bells and whistles at my disposal now. As you can see (or you would if you were looking at this on a desktop computer), the new site has a sidebar with widgets and social media links and everything real websites have. And it can categorize my posts and automatically populate them in a drop-down menu at the top of the page. I’m still playing around with the categories. I realize “Wisconsinish” and “Newspapery” might not deserve top-level menu status, so they could get sub-menu-ized in the future, but for now, I’m having fun exploring the possibilities and going a little mad with my newfound power. Bwahaha.

It’s like buying a new car. I’ve been kicking the tires on the WordPress template for a while, and it’s really exciting to be able to take it out for a spin and show it off. Plus it’s got that new-website smell. Mmmm.

Anyhoo, take a look around. Click on the links. Check out my new About page. Follow me on social media. And let me know what you think — unless you hate it, in which case, as always, you can just keep your stupid opinions to yourself.

Crafting | Newspaper chicks wreath

Hello, blog readers. I’m going back in time today to make a new home for some old friends.


chalk painted wreath with newspaper chicks and flowers

Loyal readers (with good memories) might remember the newspaper chicks I made back in 2015 by decoupaging newspaper onto some yellow plastic Easter chicks.

decoupage craft project

Back then, I had them displayed under glass…

decoupaged newspaper chicks

.. and made them their own miniature cheeseheads and Wisconsin Badger pennants. This year, I decided I wanted to perch them in a wreath.

www.wisconsinmagpie.com

Here is the back side of the wicker wreath I picked up at a thrift store to use for this project. You might be wondering why I took a picture of the back of the wreath instead of the front. So am I. #BloggerFail

white wreath

Here’s the front side of the wreath after I had it painted with some Rust-Oleum Chalked paint in Linen White. It only took one coat to cover.

newspaper flowers by www.wisconsinmagpie.com

Next I made some flowers, by first cutting a few stacks of newspaper squares in various sizes. If you make your own flowers, I’d recommend not cutting any more than four or five layers at a time because you’re going to have to fold these squares in half three times.

newspaper flowers by www.wisconsinmagpie.com

Here’s my first fold.

newspaper flowers by www.wisconsinmagpie.com

Here’s my second fold.

newspaper flowers by www.wisconsinmagpie.com

And here’s my final fold. You’ve probably deduced already that at this point you will want to take a sharp scissors and round off the two outside corners, like the photo says. Make sure you leave the inside corner uncut.
newspaper flowers by www.wisconsinmagpie.com

Here’s what the rounded corners look like.

After your corners are rounded, you can unfold the flowers and cut about an inch or so into the petals along each fold line.

newspaper flowers by www.wisconsinmagpie.com

I wasn’t happy with the shape of my petals at this point, so I went back and rounded the corners a little more.

newspaper flowers by www.wisconsinmagpie.com

Once your petals are the shape you like, you can give them some dimension by pulling the layers apart and wrinkling them a bit or bending them around a pencil to make the paper curl.

making newspaper flowers

I also spattered some black paint on them. Then I restacked some of the papers so I had smaller pieces on top of larger ones. To finish off the flowers, I pierced the middle of each one with an old earring.

white wicker newspaper wreath

My wreath had a Styrofoam base under the wicker, which meant all I had to do was poke the earrings into the wreath to secure the flowers in place.

newspaper wreath

The last step in making this wreath was adding a newspaper nest for my chicks. I just ran a piece of newspaper through my shredder for that.

decoupaged craft

Don’t they look happy all nestled in to their new home?

newspaper chick wreath by wisconsinmagpie.com

 

Painting | A home address sign for the porch

two-sided chalk-painted sign

I made a new sign for my back porch. If you think it looks familiar …

chalk-painted sign
… it’s because this is what’s on the other side of it. I made the “noel” side of the sign back before Christmas (and blogged about it here.) After I put my holiday decorations away, my porch looked a little bare, which is why I decided I’d paint the flip side of the sign and put it back up.

chalk-painted sign

To create my “new” sign, I started by basecoating the back of the old sign with some Folk Art Home Decor Chalk Paint (rich black) that I had on hand.

chalk-painted sign

Then I typed up my street address and printed it out. The font I used was Didot. The numbers were huge (1100 points), so I had to tile the pages and scotch tape them together.

chalk-painted sign

To transfer the design onto the board, I rubbed chalk all over the back of the paper …

two-sided chalk-painted sign

… and traced around the letters and numbers with a sharp pencil, which transferred the chalk onto the sign board. (This is always my favorite part of the process. I love to lift up the paper and see the outlines magically appear.)

chalk-painted sign

 

After that, I just had to fill in the outlines with white paint.

two-sided chalk-painted sign

I used Rustoleum Chalked (linen white) paint; it took three coats to cover the black base coat.

chalk-painted sign

 

Later I brushed on a couple of coats of Rust-Oleum Protective Topcoat (matte clear). (Word to the wise: If you’re working with Rust-Oleum Chalked Paint, make sure the paint has dried and cured sufficiently before attempting to put the topcoat on. In my haste to get this project done, I started applying the topcoat almost immediately after I was done painting. The sign was dry to the touch, so I thought it would be OK, but the white paint smeared something awful. I touched up the paint at that point and left the sign be. When I went back to it a couple days later, I didn’t have any issues with smearing.)

double-sided chalk-painted sign
I propped the sign up by my back door in the same spot I had it when the noel side was facing out. It fills in the empty spot on my porch, and it makes me smile every time I walk past it.