Category Archives: Lewis projects

Crawling Out of the Clutter

Levine Homes

For some reason I cannot explain, I like to PAINT earring pieces upstairs in my art room, but I like to put the earrings together, put the labels, on put them on cards, and take pics in our office downstairs. I really don’t have a good place to work down here, so I end up working on top of PILES of STUFF.

It started out where I had a few different kinds of findings, labels, earring cards and tools I kept these in a neat wooden ‘thingie’ I found at a garage sale. Soon my supplies overloaded its capacity and things hit the fan after that.

This is the wooden ‘thingie’ I love. I will still use it for some of the supplies.




Now that you are thoroughly appalled by my chaos, I’ll tell you that I have a PLAN on how to make order from it.




I have this nice tabletop file cabinet that I haven’t been using for awhile now. I have cleaned it out and plan to use it to make some sense out of my jewelry making supplies. I am hoping that between this and my wooden ‘thingie,’ I can access my stuff easily and have it not under foot while not in use.

This is one of today’s projects.

If I have some success, I’ll take pics and share them with you.

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Thoughts on a Sunday 5-31-2020

Penny Yaffe Krakow

We are having another gorgeous day with lots of sunshine and low humidity – a wonderful combination!  Since we have gone from dark, gray, cold, rainy weather day after day to bright, sunshiny, soon-to-be-hot weather here, today will have two projects:

PROJECT ONE:   Changing from winter closet to summer closet.



My closet doesn’t look this bad, but it will take a lot of moving to get cold weather clothes out and hot weather clothes in. I will try, over the next few days, to try on each thing, making decisions about what to do with the things that don’t fit. Some of the things –

  • I like, and MAY fit with more lardage loss (I will put these in with the cold weather clothes)
  • will be folded up and included in the next donation to the Disabled Vets in Fort Smith Thrift Shop
  • will be thrown away.

The remainder will be organized as well as possible, in the hope I can put my hands on things quickly and easily.

PROJECT TWO – cleaning out the garden.

The day is perfect for work outside.  My lettuce and spinach are starting to bolt, so it’s time to harvest what I can and compost the rest.  I can at least pull the plants, but it may take a day or two longer to put the garden to rights. I plan to check the co-op in town next week to see if they have anything I would like to plant.

I hope that you are enjoying a beautiful last day of May, too.



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Valentine’s Day Mailbox Decoration

We put up our Valentine’s Day mailbox decoration yesterday on the way to do our other errands.

This cupid is about 2-1/2 feet tall by almost 3 feet wide. It is made of heavy sheet metal, cut out by my husband using our CNC set up. We found the design on the net. He uses a program to convert the picture we have found to what is called “G-Code” a language the computer can understand. We save this on a thumb drive and take it out to the shop. We put the thumb drive into the computer and decide speed of cutting and a few other things. After set up, we start the program which guides the torch to cut the design out of an 8 foot x 4 foot sheet of metal.

Once the design is cut out, we add the piece that will attach the design to the mailbox, welding it on. We use an overhead projector and a transparency we have made to mark the salient points of the design onto the metal – both sides.

I then paint both side of the metal and the attachment piece with paint made for outside. When the painting is finished, I spray the piece with polyurethane spray to protect the piece as much as possible from sun, wind, and rain.

We change our decoration twice a month.

If you look carefully in the background of this picture, you can see our 100 pound robot made from scrap metal who welcomes people who want to come up our driveway. You can also see two metals owls – each about 2-1/2 feet tall, perched on top of poles that hold a gate we can close.

We really enjoy making decorations and yard ‘critters’ together.

My husband is trying to find a good design now for “Wonder Warthog.”


Filed under holidays, Lewis Art, Lewis Mailbox Decorations, Lewis projects, Lewis yard art

Water Pressure

We suddenly had very low water pressure several weeks ago. We discovered that the booster pump and motor in the well house (that control the added pressure we need on top of our hill) weren’t working. We spent quite awhile getting the booster pump and motor unattached and off the wall and called about trying to get it fixed. (We still had water, but just about 1/3 of the usual pressure).

As usual with our projects, the place we took it for repair LAST time had changed hands. Happily, the new owner agreed to see if he could fix our stuff. We left them with him in Fort Smith.

We waited and then finally the man called, saying the pump and motor were toast. They don’t make what we have any more, and no parts are available to replace. We gave him the go-ahead to order a new pump and motor – as close to what we had as possible. We picked them up in Fort Smith yesterday.

We spent from about 12:30 until 6:30 or so working in the well house and the shop on the installation. Of course, the new stuff couldn’t sit on the old mounts, so we spent a long time making a thick metal ‘shelf’ on which the assembly could sit.  When we got it made, we painted it so it wouldn’t rust. We took all the old attachment stuff to Yeager’s, trying to get new parts. We brought it all home and worked on it while we continued to wait for the paint to dry. (Even in the shop with the heat on, it takes a lot longer for paint to dry.)

We got the shelf mounted and attached the new pump and motor to it. We finished about 2/3 of the attachment yesterday, but discovered we didn’t have enough parts to finish.

Today – armed with gel with Arnica on my back and Tylenol – we’ll go to Yeager’s again for the parts we need to finish. I’m hoping that by the end of the day we’ll have our usual water pressure in the house again – a true luxury.

If we are successful, I’ll celebrate with a nice, hot shower!



Filed under Housekeeping - Maintenance, Lewis projects



I can finally declare victory for the day in the project of shoveling the saved potting soil back into the newly rebuilt planter!

I had just hauled the bricks that held the edges of the tarp together to the area behind the well house when my husband fell. (He is doing better – though his leg is pretty skinned up and we found a new little cut on the bottom of his big toe). He has rested this afternoon, eaten, had cold tea, read a whole book, and is now thinking about taking a nap.)

I decided – since the weather forecast is for possible rain tomorrow morning – that I wanted to get the potting soil into the planter by the end of the day. It took several short sessions, with lots of panting, water drinking and resting in-between, but I did it. I had just taken the tarp out to our burn barrel and was walking back to the house when my husband came out with both doggies.

He didn’t know I had been shoveling, and so was properly surprised that the job was done. The tarp you see in this picture is now gone, and a bare spot on the lawn is all that is left of the ‘save-the-potting-soil’ project. I still need to weed whack, since we couldn’t do a very good job without damaging the tarp, and I need to add a few more bags of potting soil to top off the planter, but basically it is ready to plant!  We have leftover bricks from the project, but we’ll decide what to do with them later.

I’ll take more pics when we’ve found some good things to put in the two planters.


Filed under Gardening, Housekeeping - Maintenance, Lewis projects

And a Miracle Occurred

About 30 years ago, my husband and I, with the help of our then 10-year-old son, built a bunch of brick planters around the house. We did that because we live on top of a ridge line, and there is basically very little ‘soil.’ If you try to dig a hole, you hit rock almost immediately. The only soil we have we had trucked in when we built the house so that we could have a lawn. We ended up with 14 brick planters of many shapes and sizes around the house so that we could have bushes and flowers.

At the end of the winter, all of a sudden the planters on either end of the front of the house collapsed. We’re not sure why. Maybe the mortar we used on those two was bad. Maybe the hydrangea plants’ roots undermined the strength of the bricks. For whatever reason, a whole section of each planter came down.

We spent a lot of time and effort knocking the rest of the bricks down and hauling them behind our well house. We got down to the last round of bricks, but even with a sledge hammer, couldn’t budge them. We cleaned up the area as much as possible, shoveling the potting soil onto a tarp and then wrapping the soil up, hoping to save it.





Either end of the house has looked like the photo above, with the bottom round of bricks on the slab we poured, waiting for the rebuild. We looked and looked for brick layers, but everyone was busy. This is too small a job for most workmen. But we HAD the bricks, we HAD the mortar, and all we needed was someone who knew what they were doing to put in the labor to do the rebuild. After calling and talking to a LOT of people, we finally had one man who would come up and give us an estimate for the two planters. His estimate was $700.  We gulped, thanked him for his time, and proceeded to build the planter on the far end of the house ourselves.

We knew we were in over our heads, but we decided that we would mix up ONE bag of mortar and see how many bricks we could lay. It turned out that we could do one round of bricks per bag of mortar. So we used one bag each day, laid the one round of bricks, and cleaned up, doing this for 5 days.



I’m embarrassed to show you the job we did, but it DOES hold the potting soil, which we shoveled back into it from the tarp.  We cleaned up the area around the planter as best we could. My husband modified the irrigation system pipe, wiring the ends of it to rebar at opposite ends of the planter.

Happily, I learned of a local brick layer on Facebook recently. It took us a long time to finally get him out here, but he came yesterday and gave us an estimate on rebuilding the second planter for us – one that we could afford – AND he would come today at 8am!

He didn’t actually come until 9:30 this morning. I had all but given up, but then, suddenly, he was coming up the driveway. I made sure he knew where bottles of cold water were, where a handy bathroom was, and got our wheelbarrow and a cement hoe.  He started to work immediately. We went to town to get one more bag of mortar so that he could finish the job, and he finished right around 1:30 this afternoon.




As you can tell from this photo my husband took, Jose did a really nice job. He cleaned things up well, too.

His name is Jose Aguirre. His phone number is 479-285-3665.  He can do new construction or repair things done with stone or brick. He is a nice, hardworking man who faced his intense dislike of our steep driveway, driving up here TWICE for the job. He really thought his vehicle wouldn’t make it, but it did. He also had trouble going down, skidding on the gravel at the bottom of the driveway. I suggested that he slow way down toward the bottom, EASE onto the brakes. I could tell he was dreading driving back down again after finishing the job, but he handled that, too. :0)

I got a bunch of his business cards. I will distribute them around Greenwood wherever it seems good. I will also write a blurb on the Greenwood AR section of Facebook. He is honest, trustworthy, hard-working, and does a beautiful job. I highly recommend him.

Tomorrow my husband and I will shovel the potting soil into the rebuilt planter and my husband will make a better irrigation pipe for this planter, too. THEN, maybe next week, we can have the fun of seeing what is available at the nursery to plant!




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Garage Project is Finished!

Just to officially document that on OCCASION my area in the garage looks pretty reasonable, here are pics of the finished project for the day –


I hate to admit it, but usually I have trouble walking around in this area.



See – there IS a counter under all the ‘stuff.’  It’s a NICE counter, too – when you can SEE it….

Enough for today. It’s really too hot outside. I hope that you are indoors and comfortable.

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Pantry is Finished!

It’s far from perfect, but MUCH cleaner and more organized than it was. It was almost like a treasure hunt. I found things I didn’t know I had!


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Cleaning Out the Pantry – AGAIN

Contemporary Closets

I’m lucky. I have a ROOM we use as our pantry. Being lucky is sometimes a double-edged sword, though. Having ROOM results (in OUR house) in things going in and never coming back out.

Ours doesn’t look as bad as this one, but right now ours looks as if a bomb had struck. I’m trying to do a combination of things with the clean out and reorganization –

  • get rid of things that are past a sell or use by date
  • box up the remaining Nutrisystem stuff (I read some of the labels again and was appalled that ONE meal exceeds my carb limit for the day!)
  • reorganize for more actual cooking going on (I got spoiled when we were on the commercial diet. Now I’ll be cooking most meals- plus gearing up to feed our male 16-year-old Italian soccer-playing foreign student who arrives August 6th.
  • I’m gearing up to be able to stick with the keto eating plan for me, and the main things my husband eats, plus be able to add some pasta, or bread, or cereal, etc. for our new ‘son’ for the coming school year.

I’ve spent an hour so far, and am about to do another session. It will take several before things are ‘good,’ but I’m happy to be getting my act together.

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Another Compliment!

I’m not sure what is going on around here, but my husband paid me another compliment yesterday. We were getting ready for bed and suddenly he stopped and said, “You know, when we built this bed frame however many years ago it was, I ‘went along’ with your idea of decorating the headboard with stones, but I really wasn’t wild about the idea. Now I think it’s the best thing about it.”

About 10 years or so ago, we wanted to replace our bed.  We hunted for bookcase headboards with frames all over. Apparently, as we find so many times, we are not in step with the current fashion. Apparently NO ONE wants a bookcase headboard where they can actually read in bed anymore. We explored having one custom made and our teeth dropped at the prices. We decided to make a headboard and frame ourselves.


My husband is really good at visualizing what he wants to do and then making it happen. I’m more the ‘go-fer,’ assisting his efforts, running for parts or tools or whatever, holding the other end, etc. When we got to the part where the frame and headboard were together and stained, my husband said, “It’s done.” As usual, we disagreed. I wanted SOME kind of SOMETHING that we could decorate it with to make it OURS – to make it UNIQUE.


To kind of offset all the switches (controlling reading lights, fans, electricity to end tables, electric blanket controls, etc., I suggested we make ‘frames’ on either side of the main panel filled with River Rock. I liked the idea of adding the color, texture, and a bit of 3-dimensions. After looking at me a minute, he said, “Okay,” and helped me with the project, but with a decided lack of enthusiasm. I liked the idea enough for BOTH of us. :0)


To balance things, I added some river rock to the panels on either side of the bed.

It has been, as I said, 10 years or more since we built the bed frame and headboard. I’m still surprised that he suddenly told me yesterday that this has grown on him and now he likes it.

Maybe it’s something in the water. Maybe it’s the fact that I accepted when he asked me yesterday to spend another 50 years with him. I don’t know – but I love the compliments and hope they continue. :0)


Filed under Cause for Celebration, Family, Lewis projects

A Productive Day

Animal Wallpapers – Desktop Nexus

We got up this morning, intending to start rebuilding the second brick planter, but looked at each other and decided we felt too old and creaky. We agreed to think about it tomorrow – like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. :0)  We went grocery shopping instead and plan to take it much easier today.

Yesterday we accomplished a lot –

  • We figured out why our irrigation system wasn’t working in the back. After my husband looked at the switches and the control box in the well house, he followed the hose from the well house to the ‘tree’ of hoses that go to the back.  He found a “monster” kink in the main hose. We don’t know HOW it became kinked, since that is in the woods and not mowed, but he was able to splice the hose where it was damaged and the water flowed again!
  • Oh!  I have to pat myself on the head a bit. My husband asked me to reprogram the control box. I looked and looked, but couldn’t find the paperwork on how to do it. I finally went out and pushed buttons, hoping a main screen would come up. It did! I was able to reprogram year, month, day, time, and watering durations for the front and back!
  • I mixed up a 2-gallon canister of KilzAll and sprayed all around our garden and around our shop – hopefully murdering lots of weeds.
  • We cleaned up the work area around the first planter we rebuilt. We had extra concrete to shovel, bricks to haul away, etc. I took a chisel and a hammer and cleaned up the front of the planter as much as I could. I have to tell you, it looks pretty bad. It is sturdy and it holds the potting soil, so we’re declaring it a win. We’ll attach the PVC pipe set up for irrigation and then it’s finished. We’ll try to do better on the second planter. AND we keep reminding ourselves that we’re not having to come up with $700!

So – a much more laid-back day – probably with a bit of weed whacking will suffice.

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The First Planter is Finished

Tail and Fur

We finished bricklaying on the first collapsed planter yesterday. We just came in from shoveling the potting soil we had tried to save under some tarps back into the planter. I’ve told you we are both long in the tooth. We managed to finish it, mainly because we are supposed to have lots of rain and severe weather here all day today. We didn’t want to lose all of the expensive potting soil we had tried so hard to save. The planters are about 2-1/2 feet high, so an 8 foot long planter holds a LOT of potting soil!  Whew! Sore backs abound!

I wasn’t going to work on the planter at all, but I discovered my husband had left the office. I went to find him in the living room – assuming he was in his chair reading. He wasn’t, so I started looking around, finding him shoveling. I grabbed another shovel from the garage and we finished the job in about 45 minutes. I then moved all the bricks that were holding the tarps in place behind the well house. We are now ready for the rain, except I just remembered that I need to transfer the two tarps to the burn barrel.

We worked on the planter on the far end of the house for good reason. It doesn’t look good at all. It is sturdy, though, and seems to be holding the potting soil nicely, so we’ll call it a win and try to do a better job aesthetically on the other collapsed planter that is closer to the driveway.

Before we buy plants for it, we’ll need to reattach the pvc pipe for the irrigation system. Then the fun starts, with discussions about what we want to plant. I’m going for perennials, as much as possible, hopefully with some nice color in at least one season. I can dot annuals in for more color without killing myself.

I am hoping that we will rest for a day or so before starting the second planter…

Happily, we tried the new-to-Greenwood Domino’s Pizza last night. We got a medium pan supreme pizza and it was delicious! We ate half of it, so we can finish it tonight and I don’t have to cook!!

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The Character-and-Planter-Building Continue

Yesterday’s session was hard because we had to haul a lot of bricks over to the site, gather all the tools, run the water hose, etc. Today’s session was harder because we put too much water in the mix, resulting in mortar that was waaaaay too thin to use. We got back in the truck and went to town and bought 3 more bags of mortar.

We added about a third of the second bag to the mix when we got back and then it was usable. We need five rows of bricks for the planter, and today we finished the third row. We washed everything and came in with red faces, huffing and puffing, in need of cool drinks.

We’re hoping to finish the first planter tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon and evening and into Sunday rain is forecast, so once we finish the first planter we’ll take a bit of a break before starting the second.

No one would think these were done by a professional, but the bricks we laid yesterday were nice and solid. As long as they’re sturdy and hold the potting soil, we’ll be satisfied.

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Another of Life’s Character-Building Projects…

Awhile back I told you that two of our 8 foot long brick planters collapsed.

30 years ago we built 14 planters around the yard, so I guess the fact that 2 of them only lasted 30 years is a pretty good result from people who had/have no clue what they were/are doing. :0)


When the planters collapsed, we used a sledge hammer to knock the rest of the bricks down. We couldn’t get the lowest row to let go of the concrete slab we poured, so we cleaned things up the best way we could and declared victory. We shoveled the potting soil from the planter onto the blue tarp you see here and then covered it with another one and put used bricks on top to hold it until we’re ready to fill the planter again. We filled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with the used bricks and stacked them up behind the well house.

Today we started the rebuilding project in earnest. We bought a pallet of bricks a couple of months ago. We bought 2 bags of mortar this morning, thinking these would be enough for one planter. We wheel-barrowed the bags over to the planter that is on the far side of the house. We used a dolly to bring enough bricks for this planter over to the work area. It was really a job to get the heavy plastic off the pallet of bricks and then stack them on the dolly and wheelbarrow them over to the planter. We did this three times to get enough over there.

I stretched a hose from the back of the house around to the front, and we found the special hoe that has two holes in it that we use for mixing mortar. We went out to the shop to find the trowels we needed.

We mixed one of the bags of mortar. We had forgotten how long it takes to actually mix that stuff! You think it’s good, and then you uncover some that is absolutely dry at the bottom of the wheelbarrow.

We decided we would work until we had used up the mortar in the wheelbarrow. By the time that was done, it was all we could do to clean up the tools and the wheelbarrow. It isn’t super hot today – 86 degrees F. – but we were really hot and tired when we came in. My face was bright red as if I had gotten sun-burned. I knew that wasn’t true because both of the planters are mostly in the shade.

We got huge glasses of ice water and drank them down pretty quickly. I fixed us some lunch and we ate in our chairs in the living room. The next thing we knew, we were both waking up from taking naps in our chairs!

We have agreed that what we did this morning would be it for the day. We’ll probably do one bag of mortar a day until the first planter is done. We now think that each planter will need a bit more than 3 bags of mortar. We’re supposed to be getting rain late Saturday. We think we can finish bricking the first planter, but we may save the second planter until next week.

If I needed more motivation to lose another 30 pounds, I now have it. We are also newly learning how much of a difference 30 years makes in laying bricks. This will be a character-building exercise for us. I see Tylenol, back pain gel, and yoga stretches in my future. :0)

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Wonderful Day

Ecuen Images

We’ve had a good day.

The temperature is 79 and the sun is shining. There is a nice breeze.

My husband mowed the lawn while I cleaned out the greenhouse and started more spinach seed. (Always optimistic!)

Then we changed the tires on the truck from the snow tires to our regular tires. We’re glad we don’t have to do this more than twice each year, but we save money doing it ourselves. When we bought the Honda Ridgeline, we bought 4 extra wheels and snow tires and had them mounted. We keep them in the shop. In late November or early December, depending on the weather, we change from our regular tires to our snow tires. In April, we change them back.

We’re getting a bit long in the tooth for this, but my husband says each time we do it, my help is better and better. :0)

Today we celebrated all the good things we accomplished by splitting a seafood platter at The Deli for lunch!

A truly wonderful day.

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Filed under Cause for Celebration, Challenges, Gardening, greenhouse, Lewis projects

It’s UP!


My husband found a nuts and bolts bin like this at an auction Thursday. It’s big and heavy and GREAT for organizing the gazillion sizes of nuts, bolts, and other thingies needed to make things in the shop. The picture above looks like what he got, but add several years, dings, and a lot of dirt and labels that need to be taken off as my husband arranges things the way he would like. He got it for a good price, though he had to wait a LONG time for it to come up for bid.

I thought he might add heavy-duty casters on the bottom so he could roll it around. OR, that he would make a base that it could sit on against a wall. He decided that he wanted to mount it to support beams on one wall of the shop. Since we had some trouble getting it out of the back of the truck and onto a dolly to move it into the shop, I knew that this would be quite a job.

He spent much of yesterday making a heavy metal mounting ‘shelf’ for the bin to sit on and welded it onto one of the horizontal support beams on the wall. He also made some metal straps for securing the top of the bin to another horizontal beam up higher.

Soon after we returned from getting rid of our metal scraps this morning, he headed for the shop. I didn’t want him to try to do this project by himself, so I went out to the shop soon after. An hour and a half later, we finally have it up on the shelf with a strap securing the top. He has more securing to do, but the big, difficult part is done. In my next life, I’m determined to come back as a man with lots of strength and a lot of know-how on project stuff, with the vocabulary that goes with it. I really wish I were a better helper in projects like this. I do the best I can and am very thankful, though frazzled, when the job gets done and no one is hurt.

We’re about out of wall space in the shop now. We are both very pleased to have a good, dry place to work with good lighting, heat or air conditioning if needed, the tools we need and enough space to do our projects without having to move a lot of stuff. I’M glad he has the smarts to decide to do something and then figure out a way to get it done!


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We MAY Have Found a Bricklayer!

This is one of the two 8-foot brick planters that threatened to collapse. We built 14 planters around the house, but none of the others have had any problems. We’re not sure if we used bad mortar – that ONLY lasted 30 years, or if water froze on the inside causing the problem, but one corner split and then the whole side bulged out. We knocked one of the planters down several weeks ago, wrapping up the potting soil as best we could with tarps.


This is the second planter. We have the new bricks we need. We had looked for bricklayers, but hadn’t been successful. A friend of ours had the name and phone number of a bricklayer she thought might work with us. My husband called and left a message today on his phone. Fingers crossed that he is willing to help us and that he is affordable. Mixing mortar is a hard job, and it would be really nice if this rebuilding could be done by someone who knows what he’s doing, rather than merely one old couple who will do their best…

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The Etched Vase Project Continues

I tried DRAWING the design on the glass with white, then black, and neither one was working. I finally just grabbed the dremel and started using it freehand, outlining the designs I’ll fill in later.

This is hard to see. I put a sheet of carbon paper inside the vase, hoping the designs would show up well enough for you to see what I’m trying to do here.


This project will take a long time to do. I’ll only do a bit at a time, since working with the dremel is difficult for me. It’s tedious and must be done over and over to show up well on the glass. I’ll post pictures as an area is finished.

I haven’t done this in a long time, so I’m having a good time. I like not having a deadline, or someone depending on it.

Here’s hoping I can do something that looks okay.

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Vase Etching Restart

Yesterday I told you I was going to cut out the design I drew a long time ago on sticky paper on this vase and then etch the design with a dremel.

After working at it for a long time, I finally decided that the paper had been on the glass too long and I wasn’t going to be able to do a reasonable job of cutting out the design. I spent about an hour getting the sticky paper off and the vase clean once again.

Today I’m going to try using a white marker to draw the design on the glass and THEN try to use the dremel. I have a sand blaster in the shop, but the etching done there comes out pretty evenly. What I’m trying for this time is a rougher, texture-y etching.

I have no clue if this will work, but it’s fun to try different techniques.

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New Careers?

My husband and I have decided to consider becoming weather forecasters post-retirement. I say this because –

  • we FINISHED the demolition of the 2nd failed brick planter, AND
  • we also put a tarp over my cement mixer behind the shop that we use to mix Mel’s Mix (the special soil replacement ingredients we use in our raised bed square foot planters

Because of these two things, we can practically assure everyone that the 40% chance we had of rain tomorrow morning is no longer applicable.

If we HADN’T finished and the soil wasn’t covered up, we would have had a deluge. We have proved this several times before in the 30+ years we’ve lived here. :0)

I’m thinking of calling our local weather guys and girls and letting them know there should be a change in the forecast….

Here is the 2nd 8 foot x 1-1/2 foot demolished-waiting-for-spring-for-us-to-rebuild-the-planter.

We did the work today in record time because the plant roots remaining weren’t completely root-bound and also we learned the best tools to use and techniques on the FIRST failed planter we demolished.


I hope the other people who live in our area weren’t depending on it raining tomorrow…. :0)


Filed under Gardening, Housekeeping - Maintenance, Lewis projects, Mother Nature

Planter Project


Yesterday I told you that the weather forecast was for good weather until Tuesday of next week, when we’re due for another ‘wintry mix.’  I was happy because we wouldn’t be rushed on our demolishing of the 2nd of 2 planters that were falling apart.

Well, when I checked today, the forecast is NOW for a 40% chance of rain TOMORROW – morning!  Arrrrgh!!!!!!

You can see where we are now. We just finished our errands for the day and are resting a bit before we tackle this again. Since there is a good chance for rain tomorrow, we really need to see if we can get the dismantling done today, including digging out the remaining plants, digging out the rest of the potting soil, knocking down and hauling off the rest of the bricks, and then wrapping the tarp around the soil and putting bricks on top to try to save as much of the soil as possible for the rebuild in the spring.

My nose is out of joint right now about this –

  • It’s Valentine’s Day and I was hoping for a quiet day, with some time up in my art room. (We got some jumbo shrimp at the seafood place on the way home today from taking our tax stuff to our CPA. I peeled and cooked it, and it is cooling in the back fridge – but we may be dozing in our recliners from sheer exhaustion, rather than enjoying it tonight.)
  • We are a bit ‘long-in-the-tooth for this project. It’s probably a good character-building exercise to do it ourselves, but it would be so NICE not to have to get the whole demolition part into two days…

Okay. I hear you. Enough with the griping and on with the DOING.

I’ll post pics later today – or tomorrow… :0)

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Part II of Brick Planter Redo

Awhile back I told you that two of our brick planters desperately needed to be rebuilt. My husband tried to dig out a hydrangea bush in one of them and the whole front of the planter fell down into the yard. We spent the next few days digging out the plants, shoveling the potting soil onto a tarp, hauling the bricks out of the way, and then wrapped up the soil as best we could to try to save as much as possible for the spring rebuild.

Today on the way back from errands, my husband said he thought we should take advantage of the spring-like weather today and start demolishing the second planter.


We worked for a couple of hours so far. We got a huge hydrangea plant out that was totally root-bound. We knocked off as much soil as possible and then wheel-barrowed the remains and dumped it ‘off the edge of the earth’ (past the edge of what we call the civilized part of our 8 acres.)

We’ve moved a lot of bricks and potting soil, but decided to admit we’re old and call it a day.


Tomorrow we’ll hit it again. The weather forecast says we don’t have bad weather until Tuesday of next week. I hope they’re right. We would like to get this part of the project wrapped up as soon as possible.

In the spring, we’ll rebuild the two planters. We already purchased the bricks. We’re not sure if these planters failed because the mortar we used on them was bad, or that they had enough water in them that didn’t drain out properly and froze, breaking up the sides.

We built 14 brick planters around the yard and only 2 failed, so that’s a reasonable amount of success. These lasted over 20 years before failing, so hopefully they’ll last until long after WE are gone.

Hopefully, more progress pictures tomorrow.

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Planter Project

The brick-lined rectangular slab on the right used to be a planter. We built it several years ago, along with 13 others, and all of a sudden it wasn’t happy, its sides bowing out a bit. One other planter just like it at the opposite end of the house needs to come down, too.

We weren’t planning to do anything about this until the spring. :0(

My husband decided he would dig out one of the hydrangea bushes in it, and the whole front of the planter collapsed, forcing us to get things to a reasonable point before our winter got serious. We lucked out, getting a few days of spring-like weather, so we knocked down the other bricks, hauled them to behind the well house where we stacked them up, dug out the potting soil and put it on the tarp to the left of the photo. We spent part of several days demolishing the planter. We’re a bit long-in-the-tooth now and sledge-hammering, shoveling, and hauling bricks tires us out pretty quickly.

We got to the bottom layer of bricks, but no matter what we used, they wouldn’t budge. This means we’ll do the brick laying to rebuild the planter ourselves, since no pro would touch it. We wrapped up the potting soil in the tarp, got another one to put on the top and held it down with bricks – to save as much of the potting soil as we can.  Just in time,  since the rains came and now we have the smallest rectangular ‘lake’ in the world – the bricks holding the water in on top of the concrete slab.

We bought replacement bricks several months back, so when the weather is cooperative and warm enough for the mortar to set well, we’ll try to demolish the other wounded planter and then get busy with the rebuilding. Since we’re now seriously heading into winter, this will probably be it on the planter project until the spring.

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My husband and I were raking rocks, picking up tools, hauling bricks, and wrapping up the potting soil for the planter we had to demolish.  My husband’s hearing is a bit challenged (I guess mine probably is, too), but I asked him, while he was raking rocks, if I should start gathering the tools. He gave me an exasperated look, stopped raking rocks, and started pitching tools into the wheelbarrow. I helped him finish that, hauled off some bricks, put away the tools, and came back and helped with the rock raking. We put some bricks on top of the tarp filled with soil and agreed that we would need to get a smaller tarp tomorrow to cover up the soil better.

While we were taking some pry bars back out to the shop, I apologized that I had made him angry. He finally said, “You wanted me to help raking rocks. THEN you decided to haul the bricks off instead of raking with me. THEN you wanted me to stop what I was doing and pick up tools.”

The fact that he was out there raking rocks and helping to get to a good stopping place on the planter meant more to me than the fact he got angry with me because he won’t admit he needs his hearing checked.  I DO value our relationship, and it IS more important than my ego or who was right or wrong.

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I’m frustrated because it’s already Tuesday afternoon and my exercise plans are blown for the week.

I told you that I was going to do some combination of  DANCING exercise video, WALKING exercise video, the elliptical trainer, Wii Fit Plus, and yoga during Monday through Friday to try to keep moving, give myself a lot of variety, and try to increase my health and mobility.

THEN, our brick planter collapsed, sending brick everywhere.

We KNEW that this planter we built years ago and one other (both 8 feet long and a foot wide in front of our home at either end) were failing and would need to be replaced. We just didn’t plan on it right NOW. We figure the mortar we used was bad, since the other 12 planters we built are doing fine.

Once it collapsed, there was nothing to do but demolish the planter, haul the bricks over to a storage place behind the well house, shovel out the potting soil, and prep the area to rebuild it.

We’ve spent part of two days on it so far. We got down to the concrete slab we poured and the bottom round of bricks. We tried with a sledge hammer, pic-ax, and other tools to loosen the bottom round of bricks, but they wouldn’t budge. We have now decided to prep the area, raking rocks out of the way, wrapping up the potting soil in a tarp, and will re-brick the planter ourselves when the weather and temperature are good.

I’m about to go out and rake rocks. I’m not sure yet, whether we’ll go ahead and demolish the other planter or just hope it stays in one piece until spring.

I’m frustrated because I know this kind of activity doesn’t really take the place of official exercises. I can do a lot around the house or yard and not activate all the muscles that need it. Even raking rocks, wrapping up soil, sweeping, etc., isn’t the same as one of my more official avenues of exercise.

Tomorrow a carpet cleaning company is coming to clean our living room, office, and foyer. I’ll be relocating small stuff all morning in preparation for their work. Then, when the carpet is dry, we’ll be putting things back. A lot of labor, but –

I’ll just go with the flow and start my ‘official’ exercises NEXT week…

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Plans vs Actuality Update


We tried to go back out to work on finishing demolishing the brick planter after a late lunch, but weren’t making much progress. We decided to call it a day and hit it again tomorrow.

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Plans vs Actuality

This picture gives you a BIT of an idea of what we’ve been doing since yesterday afternoon.

My husband went out to see if he might be able to dig a hydrangea out of one of two brick planters that are suddenly falling apart in front of our home. (We think the mortar we used must have been bad.)  We built 12 others that are doing fine.

He just started to use a shovel – and part of the whole front of the planter came down with a crash. I was planning to go to my art room to play, and suddenly we were going to the local hardware store for two tarps for the “demolishing-the-planter” project.

We spread one tarp out and held it down with some of the bricks that had fallen off the planter. We spent an hour and a half yesterday trying to dig the big hydrangea out of one end of the planter. My husband dug and cut and I threw bricks into the wheelbarrow and carted them off behind our well house and then stacked them up. We FINALLY got the huge ball and roots of the hydrangea to let go and then spent 10 minutes with both of us working together trying to roll the ball off the end of the civilized portion of our front yard. (The rest is woods.) We called it a day right before dark.

Today we did errands, came home and had our Nutrisystem mid-morning snack. I came in to work on the computer and suddenly noticed things were quiet. (I had again been planning to go upstairs and play in my art room.)


I looked around and discovered my husband had gone outside to tackle the planter again. I grabbed some gloves and went out to help.

We had another hydrangea, and I suggested we use a pick-ax to break it apart a little at a time. That seemed to work much better. My husband wielded the heavy pick-ax, then I shoveled up the dirt and threw it onto the pile on the tarp. This allowed each of us a bit of time to rest between periods of exertion.

We now have most of the potting soil on the tarp. We’re taking a break, drinking water, and relaxing a bit.

We’ll go back out and see if we can remove the rest of the bricks and then do an extensive clean up. We want to leave the concrete slab as clean as possible, raking the decorative rocks away from the edges of the slab. We’ll use a leaf blower to try to get the remaining soil out of the rocks. We’ll wrap up the tarp, putting bricks on top to keep the soil intact as much as possible.

We have another planter to do, but I’m not sure we’ll get to that one now. We have already purchased a pallet (or whatever you call it) of bricks to use to rebuild the planters. If we can find an expert to do it that we can afford, we’ll do it. If not, we’ll get busy mixing mortar in the spring…

Maybe TOMORROW I can play.

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Kitchen Reorganization Project is Finished!


I’ve spent about 3 hours cleaning out the four junk drawers in the kitchen. I finished – finally – and then fixed some lunch for us.

The drawer on the right is the original junk drawer, and is still the most averse to organization. I mostly took things OUT. The drawer on the left is now tools.


Drawer # 3 on the right is left-over tools, such as levels, stud finders, razor blades and holders, and measuring tape. The last drawer is my microwave steam cleaner, rolling-pin, extension cord and toothpicks.

Not perfect, but I threw away a ton of stuff, relocated things, and then reorganized what was left. We should have a much easier time finding things now.

I have officially called the end to the kitchen project now – at least for this Phase II pass.

I’ll decide the next project tomorrow.

Right now I may curl up in my chair and take a nap.

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Morphing Junk Drawer

Yesterday I cleaned out four more kitchen drawers.

We have always had what we call a ‘junk drawer’ in any kitchen we have. It’s the place we put nails, screws, twist-ties, tools, and other odds-and-ends We might need.

The problem with living in a nice home for over 30 years is that – unless one is a good housekeeper, which I’m NOT

ONE junk drawer morphs into FOUR!

(The one we had set up got too full, so my husband moved some stuff out of the drawer next to it and put the new junk in there. And then, the next, and the next….)

Now we have FOUR junk drawers in the kitchen –


Drawer 1 – this is the ‘original’ junk drawer

Drawer 2


Drawer 3


Drawer 4

I know. We’re slobs. But we ARE trying to do better.

Today I will take EVERYTHING out. I’ll pitch a lot of things, relocate other things that shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and then try to organize what we’re keeping.

I’ll try to keep it to TWO junk drawers.

Junk drawers will never be ‘neat,’ but we are wasting lots of valuable space.


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Happy New Year from Calvin, Hobbes, and the Lewises

We just put up our “Happy New Year” mailbox decoration. We made this Calvin & Hobbes design using our CNC machine and computer-guided torch to cut out the metal. My husband made and welded on the mounting bar, and then we marked both sides. I painted the sides using outdoor paint and then sprayed a protective layer of polyurethane to help it withstand the sun and weather as well as possible.


This is the back of the decoration. You can see the mounting bar clearly on this side.

Happy New Year!

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Did It!

Library Donation – We may add to this before we actually take it to the library.


Disabled Veterans Thrift Store Donation – We may add to this, too, but the foyer is now clear of the piles of books, clothes, electronics, etc.

So, today’s project is finished and I’m going to grab a cup of coffee, sit in my recliner, and dive back into my book.

Have a wonderful afternoon and evening!

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