Sunday, August 23, 2015


     Today I am happy to announce the completion of my longest project to date: a project that took seventeen months to complete. To wit, we took an old 1942 Philco radio, the kind with radio tubes that had lived in someone's dusty barn for a while, and turned it into this beautiful piece of furniture.

 And it does something even better than play music now - it holds liquor!
I didn't work on this continuously for a year and a half, but there were a lot of steps. Step 1: My father gives me the radio. He helps me rip out the inside and then I haul it from Ohio to Maryland. Step 2: Nick and I make shelves for it. Step 3: Nick and I determine that we cannot make or buy the complicated hinges we'll need. Step 4: I haul it back to Ohio. Step 5: My father spends a huge amount of time making the lovely black hinges you see above. The door alone weighs 10 pounds, and has to mounted on a veneer (i.e. very thin) curved wood surface, requiring some sophisticated engineering. My father tells me this is my Christmas gift. Step 6: He brings the radio to Maryland. Step 7: Nick and I adjust the shelves to account for the hinges, I paint the inside and attach a back to keep my glasses and bottles dust free. Step 8: I spend almost the entire weekend refinishing the faceplate, which is hinged and can be lifted to store shot glasses. Step 9: I drink.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Now is the summer of our discontent*

I make an excellent ratatouille. But I never make things like ratatouille in August, when I have eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini in the garden, because I'm too busy picking and freezing said vegetables. My freezer is stuffed, and I still have gallons of edamame and beans to freeze. I'd ask myself why I thought it was a good idea to have such a large garden, but I know why it's a good idea - I'll be delighted to have these vegetables in February. Right now, though, I'm thinking about fleeing to a desert retreat to get away from all the growing produce.**

*As an aside, I looked up the meaning of "Now is the winter of our discontent", and it means that the time of unhappiness in past. Therefore, being in the "summer of discontent" would mean I'm right in the middle of it, I think.
**Yes, I could pick it and leave it at neighbors' doors, but that still involves picking.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Project Days

     The project days with my friends S&N have continued throughout the summer, but there haven't been as many picture-worthy elements to share here. Following the success of our coat trees, N and I thought we'd make Adirondack chairs, one for each of us. On the first project day we sat down with our chosen plans, and started working out how much cedar we'd need to buy. After a half hour of calculations and some phone calls to the specialty wood provider, I started comparing the projected cost of the wood to the cost of a kit. The kit turned out to be more than $100 cheaper per chair, probably because the guy making them buys his wood in bulk and knows how to cut carefully and not waste anything. N and I agreed that it wasn't worth a $100 extra to spend months making them. By the next project day we had our kits, which we assembled in about four hours.
     The only unforeseen difficulty was the carpenter bees that live on my front porch. As soon as I got my chair home, I realized I couldn't leave an unfinished chair on the porch, when the bees have been munching on the existing chairs all summer. So right now it is residing in my living room while I figure out what finish will withstand hungry bees.
     I've also helped out with S&N's kitchen. This is a long-term remodeling project, in which I've practiced hanging drywall (it's easy to cut but oh-so-heavy), painting ceilings, and sanding moldings. There have been relatively few disasters on this project, although I did do touch-up painting with the wrong color, requiring touch-up on my touch-up. In my defense, I used the paint I was instructed to use. This was a good lesson in labeling all old paint with the exact room/wall it was used on.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

This and that

     I'm sitting by next to my phone, while it opens apps and changes settings, seemingly possessed. Luckily, this is because I gave a technician remote access to my new phone. Unluckily, since I got the phone three weeks ago, every phone call I make has been plagued by "What was that? I couldn't hear the last sentence." While I can access email and text and take pictures, above all, I'd really like to use my phone to, you know, make phone calls.
     This is the latest in a long series of troubleshooting efforts. I really like the phone service I use, so I am hoping to stick with them, but my commitment hinges on whether I have a working phone in the next week.
     At the conference last week, several friends suggested that my blog was no longer appropriately titled. My impression is that they don't think there's sufficient "style" any more. I suggested "Frugality with Renee Michelle" but was informed that it was not a catchy title. If any readers have better suggestions, let me know.
     I bought about 20 pounds of peaches at the farmer's market last week, for the crazy cheap price of $12. With this purchase, I consider my fruit storage done for the summer. This winter I'll be able to enjoy: 20 pounds of strawberries, 20 pounds of peaches, and 3 gallons of blueberries (picked and frozen by my wonderful mother). I haven't yet made any jam, but I was thinking about branching out into orange marmalade and apple butter this fall.