The absolute, very last ever post on the mudroom…maybe

Why?

Because it is finally finished. And I have to say this final bit was all Mr. H.C. The only share I had in this last wall was painting one coat of paint on the door.

There won’t be too many words about this, because words cannot describe how completely and utterly finished it looks.

Unfortunately photos can’t do it justice either. Because it is all painted in Sherwin Williams’ lovely creamy white color — Steamed Milk. The same color as the kitchen walls. The same color as the dining room walls. The same color as the living room walls. The same color as the ceiling in all those rooms as well. Yes, we like creamy white walls. And ceilings.

In my humble non-decorator-just-average-person opinion, creamy white walls make a humble cottage look bigger, lighter and brighter, and just all-around more cheerful. And anyone who saw the cottage before, with its orange walls and wallpaper and 70s dark paneling would agree.

So without further ado, here are some befores, durings, and afters of our finally-finished-after-five-years mudroom entry to Apple Hill Cottage. (Trumpet sounds here…)

One can see that it is so new, there isn’t even any art on the walls.

This gallery below shows the progression of the outside wall of the mudroom — from the initial window, cedar shake walls, and plastic ceiling — to what it looks like now:

The next gallery of photos shows the progression of the second wall:

The floor has been done for a couple of years, but it still merits a before and after photo shoot:

The finishing of this room took so long because an exterior roof was necessary before the interior ceiling could be installed. Since the roof was finished this past summer, this winter we were able to proceed with the ceiling:

The last wall to be finished (February/March, 2017) was the wall with the most issues. There is an electric panel two feet from the wood stove; there were wires traveling the whole length of the wall that hooked into the electric panel; and this wall was also the orginal entry into the kitchen before the mudroom was enclosed and was just a porch. When we took off the cedar shakes, the wall was down to its original siding and it wasn’t pretty:

These photos below show the electric panel side of the doorway:

The sliding door that covers the electric panel is made from concrete board and trimmed with wood grain concrete board so it mimics the other interior doors in the cottage, but it is safe for being next to the wood stove. It hangs from the ceiling with pocket door hardware.

One of the best things about having the mudroom finished is that now the doorway into the kitchen is finished as well. In the last post on the mudroom,  I showed you the photo on the left. Now the far right is the finished picture.

Five rooms down, two to go. Three if you count the back porch; four if you count the laundry room.

But who’s counting?

142. Skip the Cleaning Aisle: DIY easy green clean recipes

Earlier this summer several of us were cleaning a commercial kitchen at a children’s camp before camp started for the summer.

There was a lot of grease… everywhere.

My friend Joey introduced me to her recipe for an all-purpose cleaner that cuts grease better than the expensive, commercial, stinky stuff that contains “who knows what unpronounceable ingredients.”

I had been using a natural cleanser of my own — orange vinegar, sometimes with baking soda — which I like a lot, but this one is way better! I liked it so much, I went to the dollar store and bought my own clean spray bottle for it, instead of just using a hand-me-down bottle.

All purpose cleanerAll-Purpose Cleaner and Degreaser:

  • 1 teaspoon washing soda (not baking soda)
  • 2 teaspoons Borax
  • 1 teaspoon Castile liquid soap
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 10 – 15 drops essential oil (Good oils for cleaning use are cinnamon, lemon, orange, melaleuca, peppermint, and lavender.)

Mix all the ingredients and pour into a 16 ounce spray bottle, and get to work on that greasy stove top.

Green cleaning

Dishwasher Detergent

I’ve been using a green cleaner in my dishwasher, but I really don’t like it much. The glasses are cloudy when they come out, and the silverware doesn’t always get clean, even though I rinse my dishes in hot water before I load the dishwasher. I know it’s a waste of water, but I don’t want food collecting in the bottom of my dishwasher. And that’s the bottom line.

So I was delighted when I found this oh-so-simple recipe for dishwasher soap. I remember reading that homemade dishwasher soap was an issue, because Mother-in-Laws come to your house and inspect your glasses for spots. Well, guess what? This is a mother-in-law proof recipe! Here’s my glass bowl, fresh out of the rinse cycle.

IMG_6190

Dishwasher Detergent:

  • One part Borax
  • One part washing soda
  • White vinegar in the rinse-aid compartment

We have city water and I’ve used washing soda with great success. I have also heard that citric acid is a great addition to the rinse aid compartment if you have sediment on your plastic ware. But even the commercial dishwashing detergents leave sediment on my plastic stuff, and that’s just one more reason for getting rid of your plastic stuff. If you have citric acid, by all means try some with the vinegar. I was so astounded at how well this worked that I’m not going to bother with it. (If you are someone who wants research behind this, you can go to the blog post “10 things you should know before making homemade dishwasher detergent” by Little House in the Suburbs. Or you can just make this recipe, and be amazed that it’s so simple, and it works so well. Now if only I could discover a shampoo that is so simple and works so well…

Disinfectant

And here’s one more cleaner I love to spray on my countertops — both wood and soapstone. It is also a disinfectant, so it’s good for sinks and toilets too. And it is reputed to keep ants away. I can’t say about this for sure. What I can say is that it might work. I sprayed around Henry the Cat’s food bowl when I started seeing ants there, and now the ants are gone. But I’m also being careful to keep it cleaner and his food swept up better. Not only is he the King of Cats, he is the King of Slobs when it comes to the food bowl department.

Cinnamon Disinfectant:

  • 12 oz. hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon oil

Mix together in a spray bottle and shake well before every use. I use a bottle that has a mister option, and I love this cleaner for two reasons: the cinnamon in it smells terrific, and the peroxide in it foams up on contact with dirt, so you can tell it’s working. Use an opaque spray bottle — there’s a reason peroxide is sold in brown bottles. It’s a great addition to your green cleaning supplies. Use it as a disinfectant, on your tile grout, on your floors, or as a bleach replacement in your laundry. I’ve even poured it down our bathroom sink drain. Here’s a great article about using hydrogen peroxide as a cleaning tool.

But I’m not giving up on my orange vinegar — it’s the best on a linoleum floor.

113. If it’s Worth Doing; or, A Treatise on fixing other people’s mistakes

The DIY era is generally considered a good thing, right? In this age of instant how-to information, anyone can do anything.

And lately I’ve been wondering if that is a good thing.

I’ve had lots of time to think on this. In fixing up two old houses, Mr. H. C. and I have also been fixing other peoples mistakes. And all the time I’m thinking, ‘If you couldn’t do it right, you should have called a professional!’

The running joke at the cottage is that it was wired by Joe’s Electric. And we laugh and say its a good thing Joe was Mr. H. C.’s dad, otherwise he would come in for a lot of criticism.

Here at the city house we aren’t related to the painting crew that was here before we bought the house; consequently, the former owner has definitely been criticized. Several times. The painting crew must have been made up of ten year olds — nothing against ten year olds — and much of the other work done on the house was slipshod as well. But since I’m doing the painting, that’s what I’m noticing.

Whoever painted the basement took a giant brush and five gallons of gray latex basement paint and slopped it over everything. Door knobs. Door hinges. Metal floor drains. Electrical outlets and the covers. The lock and chain on the door. Not to mention the concrete floor.

There are slops, drips, and globs everywhere. Bristles from the brush left in the dried paint. Corners of trim left unpainted because it was, well, hard. And suddenly, it is my issue. If I just paint over the mess, now I’ve become the sloppy painter that I’m criticizing. And frankly? I don’t want the next owner complaining about me and my workmanship.

  • Any DIY-er knows to take off door hardware when the door is painted. Don’t they?
  • Any DIY-er knows to never use latex paint on metal. Don’t they?
  • Any DIY-er knows not to use oil-based paint on top of something already painted in latex. Don’t they?
  • Any DIY-er knows to take stray bristles out of the wet paint before it dries. Don’t they?

This is what worries me. What if the DIY trend is just acceptable mediocrity under the guise of pride in accomplishment?

I’m a DIY-er from way back — I helped build my first house starting in 1978, before the first Home Depot even opened its doors — so I’m including myself in this. In the interest of saving money, or pride in accomplishment, or whatever else drives us to do it ourselves, are we accepting a lesser quality than hiring someone who knows how to do it really well?

A few weeks back a blogger posted a photo of a coffee table she had painted. It looked lovely, though the photo was taken outside and there were shadows on the table. A professional furniture painter commented (very rudely) that regular people should not take on projects they can’t do.

Rudeness and Inappropriateness aside, I get what he meant. He is a professional who has honed his skill for many years and is trying to make money at it. And here come the amateurs saying Hey. We can do that! Let’s just buy some chalk paint. Or better yet, let’s make our own…

My chalk-painted chairs, $5 each from St. Vinnie's, and painted with DIY chalk paint.

My chalk-painted chairs, $5 each from St. Vinnie’s, and painted with DIY chalk paint.

I’ve done it. In fact, I do it all the time. Why should I pay someone else money when I might be able to do it?

Do you think it might be part of our national character? After all, most all Americans came here from somewhere else because someone we’re related to thought they could do better themselves.

But I digress.

As a recovering perfectionist (and married to one who is not yet recovered) I suggest that if a thing is worth doing yourself, it’s worth doing well.

Mr. H. C. is a professional who has been called in many times to rescue homeowners who got in over their heads. And I think it’s great that they had the humility to admit they couldn’t do it. I wish the former owner of our city house had called in some professionals.

When Mr. H. C. considers doing something sub-standard, he usually says, “No, it’s against my morals to do that.” I always usually smile when he says that, because, really? That’s the way everyone should work all the time. No matter what you are being paid, no matter who you are doing the work for, no matter how much (or how little) time you have to do the project. It should be “against our morals” to do sub-standard or sloppy or careless work.

If not for yourself, at least for the people who come after you, who have to fix your mistakes…