Apartment Doorbell Label Holder Things

When we moved into our apartment I quickly taped up our names below the doorbell, thinking “I’ll fix this in a few days.” And then I didn’t, for months.  Two years, almost.


It’s the sort of thing you eventually stop seeing, but a Craigslist buyer was in our apartment recently and he said “Wow, I didn’t think the inside would look this nice based on the outside!”  Thanks, and ouch?  As a renter, I don’t care all that much about curb appeal, but I don’t want strangers bracing themselves for squalor.

Some haphazard Google searching eventually led to these metal label holders. (Currently listed for $4.27 – I bought them for $9.  What the hell, Amazon?  I thought we were friends!)


I sprayed the holders with enamel clear coat to protect them from the elements.  I also wrapped the printed labels in tape as a half-assed lamination.


Much better, yeah?



Is there anything better than the first post-winter car wash? Yes, of course, there is (my nightly post-dinner glass of wine, for example), but washing off Chicago’s winter grime ranks right up there.


For my birthday I bought myself a shop-vac.  Vacuuming the car will never be the same.  I can’t believe I spent years feeding quarters into the carwash vacuum and then frantically cleaning the car while an unseen meter ticked down.  (Why don’t they at least show you how much time you have left?!)

I also have a new mode of transportion: this bike is both my birthday present from Jarrod and my birthday present to Jarrod (ours are a week apart from one another in April).  He wanted me to have a bike so I can go on rides with him and I was generally indifferent-to-opposed to the idea.


But I’m smitten with this vintage Huffy Regatta we found at Play It Again Sports and I now look forward to learning how to bike around the city.


Having to buy and wear a bike helmet, however, is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, aesthetically.


DIY Project Round-Up

Happy new year to you all and welcome to new readers!  Now that my subscriber count has surpassed 1,500 (thanks, everyone!) and we’ve rolled into 2013, I wanted to pause to do a DIY project round-up.  Not necessarily comprehensive, just a visual introduction to what goes on around here.

Decorating DIY Projects1: Operation Obscurement: Window Film
2: Wall-Mounted Bottle Opener
3: The Framer’s Intent: Scarf Display
4: Gallery Wall: In Praise of Chopsticks & 3M

DIY Experiments1: Gold Leaf Paint Options
2: Metal Cutting Options

Furniture DIY Projects1: A Harmless Dresser-to-TV Stand Conversion
2: Step by Step IKEA VITTSJO Nesting Table Hack

Garden DIY Projects

1: Raised Garden Beds: Two Tons of Soil, One Bucket
2: Tools for (Over) Planning Raised Garden Beds
3: Canopy Fail, Cinema Success
4: Pipe + Netting Garden Trellis

Cat DIY Projects

1 & 2: Cat Concessions: Plants and Upholstery
3: CATHOLE: Litter Box Cat Door
4: Catio Cleanup

Finally, because I’m always a bit embarrassed by blog’s name, I’d like to remind you that when I say “project!”, I’m channeling Cher Horowitz and her love of makeovers.  Because somehow that’s less embarrassing?

Canopy Fail, Cinema Success

On April 4th I asked you, dear reader, to “check back soon for posts on building raised garden beds and installing a backyard shade canopy!”  Well, I delivered on the garden beds… and never mentioned the canopy again.

Backyard Shade Canopy

IKEA’s DYNING canopy seemed like a great solution for our sun-scorched backyard.  The width was perfect and installing the anchors into the back wall of our garage went easily enough.

IKEA DYNING Installation

We needed something freestanding to hold up the triangular canopy’s apex.  I inserted a screw eye into a wooden closet rod, which was supported by both a patio table and a heavy patio umbrella base.  Seemed sufficiently sturdy.  But there are no pictures because, within ten seconds, a gust of wind caught the canopy like a sail, pulled over the table and cracked the wooden pole like it was nothin’.  GAME OVER.

I then understood why The Brick House used steel plates and masonry bolts and concrete holes and huge metal poles for her shade sail.  I wasn’t willing to go that route, so the anchors hung unused until my coworker loaned me a desktop projector for something far more awesome than a canopy: a backyard movie night.

Movie Candy

Curtain Clip

I used curtain clip rings to hold up a plain white sheet and weighted it down with some bricks.

Backyard Movie Night

Doesn’t look fancy but the screen worked perfectly – the picture quality was great once night fell.

Backyard Movie Night

It was a Rushmore/Willy Wonka doubleheader.  The saturated colors, direct dialogue and minimal cussing of Rushmore worked well for this forum.  I had considered The Big Lebowski but nixed it due to the ferocity of expletives and the nearness of our neighbors. Also out of consideration for our neighbors, we lowered the volume on Willy Wonka and just had it playing in the background while people hung out and talked.

Two other tips, if you want to try this at home:

  • Be sure to bring out your loudest speakers. We went through two sound docks, which were too quiet, before hauling out our bookshelf stereo system.
  • No one over the age of 25 wants to sit on the ground. Haul out all your chairs.


Willy Wonka

Side note: I divulged my blog’s URL at a department happy hour on Friday.  Hello to any new coworker readers!  Want to come over for a backyard movie night?  We can watch Ghostbusters.  And, thanks again to Teana for the projector loan.  (Please note: I typed this post on Sunday and scheduled its publication for Monday.  I swear.)

Backyard Movie Night

When in Doubt, Paint a Door

Seriously, when all other projects feel too daunting/expensive to tackle (I’m looking at you, Bedroom), just paint a door or two. Enormous and immediate gratification.

Take this exterior back door, for example.

Back Door Before

Someone had even scratched their name into the paint. I corrected it for them.


Back Door After

So satisfying! I sanded it a bit and then repainted with Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Protective Enamel in Gloss Smoke Gray.

Back Door Sanding

Door Before and After

Door Knob Before After

Another example: someone got creative with brown paint on the exterior side of our apartment’s back door (the one leading to the catio).  Yech.

Catio Door Before

Furthermore, the original brass door plate had been painted over so many times that you can hardly see the decoration.

Door Plate Before

I sanded the door, cleaned off the dust with Klean-Strip Easy Liquid Sander Deglosser, applied a coat of Kilz and then three coats of white paint.

Catio Door Sanding

I didn’t intend to dive into restoring the door plate, but once it was in our backyard I thought “Well, might as well…”

Door Plate Stripping

It required two rounds of stripper to simply expose the screws that allowed me to pry off the plate.

Door Plate Stripping

Door Plate Stripping Second Coat

Brass Door Plate

Then it was time for a soak in a pot of boiling water, followed by a Bar Keepers Friend + toothbrush scrub, followed by a lot of toothpicks. Rinse and repeat, three times.

Brass Door Plate

Brass Door Plate

Brass Door Plate

In truth, I don’t even love the plate itself – it’s too ornate for my taste and I think the crystal knob looks we’re running a bed & breakfast – but I’m satisfied nevertheless to have recovered it from years of paint. I like seeing it when I come home, even if I’m also thinking “Man, that door needs a new knob.”

Catio Door After

Both of these projects can serve as examples of why I never feel bad for doing things to our rented apartment “without permission.” Are my landlords sacrificing a Saturday to paint a blazing hot exterior door or restore a vintage door plate? Nope. I am. So, please excuse me: while I’m up on this high horse I’m going to replace a ceiling light fixture.

One more thing, on a more personal note: Happy 2nd Birthday to my niece Cora! I’ve been trying to teach her about feminism (gotta start ’em young) but I think our cats have had a bigger impression on her. The other day when prompted to say “Bye, Aunt Marti” she said “Bye, Aunt Kitty!” I couldn’t ask for a better downstairs neighbor.