Yard Sale Finds and DIY Cocktails

(Sorry for the delayed bathroom update! I had to finish making the shower curtain, and then we were out of town, and then there was a SNAFU with some hinges… The cursing has subsided and I expect things to finally come together this weekend. I’ll return soon with bathroom photos because, trust me, we’re all in need of some closure there. Literally. I need a bathroom door that closes.)

A few weeks ago our neighborhood hosted a community yard sale. I invited some friends over to have afternoon snacks and drinks before wandering the alleys of the Greater Rockwell area. Two problems with this plan:

1) The cocktail I wanted to make called for fancy little champagne coupe-style glasses.

2) My competitive deal-hunting nature is at odds with leisurely, social yard salin’.

Conveniently, the need for #1 gave me an excuse for #2. I had to get up early and do a quick survey of the sales in order to find glasses for the cocktails I would make later that afternoon. And if I happened to stumble upon a find in pursuit of getting my friends day-drunk, who could blame me?


I saw these prints leaning up against a chain-link fence. They were priced at $20 each. I thought “Those are either somewhat cool or really ugly.” Then I thought “If nothing else, that’s a good price for a large, professional frame.” I asked how much for the pair, she said $30, I said done.


Then I asked if she knew anything about the artist – she didn’t, but said that the law firm where her father had worked dissolved and unloaded their art collection. That’s when I started to get excited – some law firms own Real Art.


Got home, did some signature deciphering, did some Googling. Oh, hey, what’s up? A real museum owns them:

Tate Museum

Allan D’Arcangelo Constellation I and IV. My friend Jenni manages a gallery in New York, so I roped her in to search for comparables (thanks, Jenni!), and then I had a friendly exchange with Sotheby’s Print Department (I can’t believe they even responded): “I have determined that the value of your prints regrettably falls below Sotheby’s minimum consignment level of $5,000 for a single lot. Most prints by D’Arcangelo sell for several hundred dollars at auction, but not more than $1,000 each.” Oh, drat. Not a windfall, but still a solid return on investment for a Saturday morning’s work.

I also found an awesome vintage cocktail set (though not the coupes I set out in search of) that I put to use that afternoon. I made a modified version of this maple concord recipe and sawed some BBQ skewers to hold the garnish because everything is better if I get to use tools.

Cocktail Saw


The cocktails were delicious and fueled wise, necessary acquisitions of dresses, (more) glasses and toddler Timberlands.

Yard Sale Finds

I hope your weekend is full of cocktails, yard sale victories, or – even better – a combination of both.

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?


Zero Dollar Laundry Room Makeover

One of the benefits of my basement hoarding is that I have frequently have enough supplies on hand to complete a weekend project without spending any additional cash.  This is particularly important for any communal areas I tackle: as an apartment renter, I don’t want to spend much money on a space that isn’t “mine.”  But this is our home and small, inexpensive improvements can make it feel even more so.  (Our landlords, I should note, are enthusiastic about all of my projects and they, regularly and hilariously, defer to me on decisions regarding the property. Jarrod jokes that I’ve been deputized.)

Laundry Room

This laundry room area has always felt unnecessarily grungy.  That little storage nook was full of unused products and left-behind items, including this baseball, which was signed, twice, by a previous tenant — who is a full-grown man.  It’s pretty endearing, really.

Signed Baseball

A few simple changes made our laundry area look much more finished.  I know this Before & After isn’t going crash Pinterest’s servers (for one thing, I didn’t use chalkboard paint or white vinegar), so I’ll just dive right in.


Laundry Room


Laundry Room

Before: the unfinished wood was difficult to clean – not that anyone had ever tried.

Laundry Room

After: I unearthed a few peel-and-stick vinyl tiles from our landlords’ trash pile, which will be much easier to wipe clean.  I centered the middle tile and then trimmed the other tiles to fit around it.

Laundry Room

Before: You know that episode of 30 Rock where James Carville says “Cajun style!“?  Whenever I see half-assed jobs like this, I say “Landlord style!”  There was no need for this shelf support to be so huge, and there was certainly no need for that many screws.

Laundry Room

After: I cut a cheap garden stake to use as a shelf bracket and stained all of the wood to match.

Laundry Room


Laundry Room

After: A few wood trim scraps, caulk and white paint makes the shelf and moulding look much more finished.

Laundry Room

Laundry Room

I scrubbed the sink and put out hand soap and a towel.  I washed and painted the back wall and hung a clock.  I also had some Flor carpet tiles from our previous apartment that I used to cover the concrete floor – when you accidentally drop an item of clothing, it’s nice to not feel like you have to wash it again.  (Side note: while I don’t love their hard/unfinished edge, reconfigurable Flor tiles are great for frequently-moving renters.)

Laundry Room

Before: Once more, for comparison.

Laundry Room


Laundry Room

A small victory! My next post will bring us back out of the basement, I promise.

Hardwired HEMMA: DIY Closet Light

While cleaning out our closet this weekend I decided that cleaning out our closet would be nicer if there were a ceiling light in there.  More often than not, mundane cleaning initiatives like this are waylaid by the allure of PROJECT!  You know what’s not exciting? Cleaning. You know what is? Wire stripping!


We have outlets at the back of our closet and I had a plug-in HEMMA cord set from IKEA on hand.  My original idea was to use the cord set to hang a light from the ceiling with the addition of a pull-chain socket adapter (like this) so that the light could be turned on and off easily.  I went to Matty K’s — a great independent hardware store in Lincoln Square — to pick one up, but realized that the adapter pull-cord was actually pretty hard to pull and would put a lot of stress on a ceiling anchor hook.  I then saw this porcelain lampholder with a pullchain.

Porcelain Lampholder

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts in which people cut off the plug of a HEMMA cord to convert it to a hardwired light fixture, which gave me the idea to cut the socket off instead, leaving the plug and hard wiring the cord to the lamp.  A super nice Matty K’s employee suggested that I mount an electrical outlet box to the ceiling as a base for the lampholder, making it safe and sturdy.

HEMMA Wire Strippers

Porcelain Lampholder


Closet Ceiling Light

I stripped the cord to expose the wires, connected them to the lamp holder, mounted the electrical box to the ceiling and the fixture to the box, and routed the cord down the back wall to the outlet.  Easy peasy.

DIY HEMMA Ceiling Light

Pro tip: Use the cutest Japanese toy you have on hand to personalize your pullcord.  Rilakkuma FTW!


See how it works?  There is no light on the left and there is light on the right.  VICTORY.

Light Before and After

Cat Concessions: Plants and Upholstery

Lola is a bit of a pig when it comes to my houseplants, treating them as an all-you-can-eat salad bar.  Adding plants to my hoard collection is a trial-and-error process: some plants he simply isn’t interested in, others he gorges on until he pukes.  Those are either relocated to my office (which is like a rescue sanctuary for half-eaten plants) or moved out of his reach.  What is officially “out of his reach” is also a trial-and-error process.

Cat Eaten Plant

I wasn’t even sure how he had managed to reach this one until I caught him in the act, wedged up behind and on top of the books below.

Cat Salad Bar

Whatta jerk.

Bad Cat

I decided to mount a plant container on the wall, fully out of fatso’s maw. Enter the IKEA FINTORP rail and container.


IKEA FINTORP Rail with Plant

I also love these modern hanging planters, which I picked up a few years ago at Sprout Home here in Chicago.

Hanging Planters

That’s a somona (euphorbia milii) on the left and a goldfish (nematanthus) on the right.

Hanging Planters

Another decorating concession we have to make because of the cats and their never-ending shedding is our upholstered furniture.  This used to be our solution for our armchairs:

Living Room Chairs with CoversUgh, winter.

I had yards of this fabric leftover from getting the cushions reupholstered, so I asked my tailor to sew two long pieces of fabric. I know that sewing in a straight line should be within my skill set, but, well, it’s not.  (When explaining what I wanted I called them “table runners” because because it was a lot easier than “See, we have these chairs that I want to look like normal chairs while protecting them from cat fur, so I’m going to wrap fabric around them and I want it to look tailored and not sloppy.”  Actually, that sounds pretty simple now, but there’s a language barrier. “Table runner” was easier.)

Living Room Chair with Cover

Living Room Windows

I can easily wash and iron the slipcovers, and when guests come over we can whip off and stash the slipcovers and have a cat-hair-free place for people to sit.


Have a good weekend, e’erbody.

Chair Slipcover