Tag Archives: homemade

more homemade furniture for the boys

A. has been knocking off projects with the speed of the roadrunners I see darting through the desert — he’s made three pieces of furniture in the past few months. He made a bench — that could be used in a mudroom someday — to organize the toys in what we call the “front room.” We still need to sew a cushion for the top — and lucky for us, a Jo-Ann Fabric opened in our desert town at the end of August.

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He made an Amish-style bookshelf — meaning he didn’t use any nails or glue, just rustic joints — for the boys.

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And, his most recent project: A modern desk with metal legs (my favorite).

DSC_7997 DSC_8002 I just love peeking into CM’s room (which will eventually be both boys’ room) and seeing that almost everything in there — including the bunkbed — was handmade by their papa in his tiny workshop in the garage. Oh, and our neighbor gave us his miter saw two weeks ago because he sees A. working late into the evening: “You’ll get more use out of it than I do,” he says.

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my first loaf of bread from scratch

One thing that’s been on my bucket list for years is to make bread from scratch. I remember having a conversation with a hippy named Seamus in a dark D.C. bar more than four years ago who said that making bread, building furniture and skiing where the three things that made him feel connected to the earth. I wasn’t interested in the guy, but those comments stayed with me.

One of the reasons we moved to the California desert nearly six months ago was to have time, space and money to do things we’ve always wanted to do. Here, the rents are cheap, the skies are blue and we have zero distractions, including obligations or places to go in town. That gives us energy to create.

Last week, I received an email from our farm box supplier Abundant Harvest Organics: “Our baker is going on a well-deserved two-week vacation.”

“Noooooooo!” I thought to myself.

And then I looked at the sky. Overcast. Actual clouds in our desert skies. I took that as a sign.

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So I bought some yeast and whole wheat flour and started the process while C. was napping. I halved the recipe because we have only one bread pan. And maybe I chose the right recipe on Epicurious, but the oatmeal wheat bread was easy. I kneaded it for about 10 minutes: the majority of the process was to let the bread rise.

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a rustic table from old 2x4s

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A few weeks ago, A. and I stumbled across a pile of wood while on a hike. A. examined the boards, and decided two of them were worth heaving down the mountain. Our guess is this wood is old — very old — maybe even nearly a century old. Luckily, we didn’t have C. with us, so we could arrange the boards in our Ford Fiesta.

One of them was rotting, so A. had to cut off the end to be sure it didn’t have any termites. And when he did, we saw a beautiful red color under the blackened surface — cedar! The wood was so weathered, it gave off a trillion little splinters like a cactus. So after working in his shop for a few hours, A. would lean against the bathroom counter with tweezers and steadily pull splinters out of his hand.

A. designed and assembled this table for our living room — to sit next to our plush red chair — and it’s our favorite piece yet. I tasked myself with crocheting a few coasters for it (you can tell I’m a beginner — more are in the works).

Now A. is excited about working with salvaged wood. Soon, instead of going on a bear hunt, we’re going to go on another wood hunt.

coasters

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my latest obsession: crocheting

About a week and a half ago, A. taught me how to crochet. That’s right, my husband taught me how to crochet. He learned from his uncle’s mom (he calls her grannie) while home on break from college and eventually made a huge blanket that we use regularly. He also crocheted gifts for family: a round blanket for his cousin’s newborn, Rangers outfits for other cousins’ kids, socks for his dad, a doily for his mom, you name it. Then, he says, he retired.

A. was excited to teach me. Except he kept grabbing at my project when I asked for help, so we got into a few “fake” fights. I called him bossy and threatened to stop working with him.

I decided to start with a scarf to get used to stitching and get in a rhythm.

Then I became obsessed. I don’t think I’ve done much else than crochet in the past week and a half. I even stayed up past midnight two different nights. One more row, I kept thinking. And then I’d be exhausted and sick to my stomach that I couldn’t stop.

I finished the scarf on Sunday, wrapped it around my neck, and sauntered around the house, very proud of myself.

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Yesterday, I made A. a hat and a coaster (I plan to make several more coasters — they will be better than this first one.)

And can I just say: Damn does it feel good to actually create something useful. We’re off to Mammoth on Thursday (our first night away from the boy!) and I can’t wait to get use out of our new scarf and hat.

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a homemade easel and a ghost town

I’ve decided to take up painting. Hey, why not? I love new projects and my next pottery class doesn’t start until May. And it would be nice to work in the garage or on the back patio where C. can entertain himself. (Earlier this week he said “cat” 400 times and chased a calico cat around our backyard while I sat with my mom in the shade.)

Painting requires an easel. Or so, A. and I thought, silly us.

So A. made me an easel (one friend in D.C. said in loving jest, “Oh my god, I just barfed in my hands.”)

“What do you want your easel to look like?” A. asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I haven’t even figured out where to start. Oil? Acrylic? Watercolor?”

A. didn’t care how I use it — he wanted to make an easel. So off he went to his sketchpad and then into the garage where he assembled it in a few days and painted it white. He’s proud because the joints are made out of oak instead of metal. (What a nerd.)

Two weekends ago, we took a trip to Randsburg, Calif., a living ghost town that boomed during the gold rush in the late 1800s. It’s straight out of a movie set — a main drag with a saloon, a shuttered post office and a general store with excellent milk shakes.

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And among these Old West storefronts is an art gallery. That’s where we met Cheryl McDonald. She was cleaning up her studio filled with photographs and watercolor paintings while her tiny white dog ran around and wagged her tail. We found out Cheryl lives in Ridgecrest and teaches watercolor. And she’s giving free sessions at the Desert Wildflower Festival in mid-April.

Perfect! I thought. Watercolor is cheaper, you do it on paper, and so I can practice and not spend a bundle. I’ll take some lessons, figure out what I need, and then I can start using the easel.

Then I talked with S., who went to art school back in the day. And she said, “Yeah, watercolor is a good medium to start in, but you don’t use an easel for that. The color would run.”

Right. Of course. I love having a new easel, but it may have to sit in the garage or display other art while I figure out how to watercolor first. I’ll be sure to wipe the cobwebs from it regularly till I’m ready to put my mastery on canvas.

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a hand-crafted oak nightstand

Over the past six weeks, A. has been a little obsessed. He’s been making a narrow nightstand for our guest room — one that will fit perfectly next to the bed. C. will often point to the door leading to the garage and say, “Papa?” even if A. is at work because A. spends so much time at his work bench. (He spends a lot of time with us, too, so this is OK.) 

First, A. sketched out how to put it together. He designed the top with a square of end grain in the middle so that it would have personality. He bought the oak from Home Depot. He bought a table saw and a plane. And then he put this together, complete with a perfect little drawer and knob.

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I’ll say it again: He amazes me. And I love that he’s creating family heirlooms. Last night, after he was finished rubbing on the oil and we were snuggling on the couch, he said to me, “OK, what’s next?” We’re thinking another table for the guest room, and then an easel so I can take up painting on our back patio when the evenings are a bit warmer.

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