Making a Mudroom

When we were designing the house there was a wide hallway with 4 doorways and an opening (is that 5 doors or not?  The last is more an arch and has no door) that was between our garage door and the rest of the house.   On the single uninterrupted wall, they put in a bench and ta-da, they call the area a mudroom.  I called it a *future* mudroom because it really had no place to hang anything.  It got higher on my priority list when kids got back to school and there were backpacks all over the floor.  It got even higher when it got cold and jackets joined the jumble.  As with all good projects we start with Pinterest, but, one of my constant annoyances with Pinterest is that there are no directions, this is my contribution to the mudroom category.

I have no before picture – imagine a navy room with a built-in bench.

First step was to evaluate use.  For us we need lots of coat and backpack hooks at a height that my kids can actually reach.  I also wanted a shelf for cool hats, I have a pretty good collection so they needed a spot.  We also end up with wet stuff a lot so we needed wall protection.

Second step design and research.  After some Pinterest searches, I fell in love with the ‘pretty shelf holders’ but that is not the name for them; they are corbels and can be very tricky.  Some I found are decorative only, made of a plastic or hard foam.  I needed structural corbels and the internet has plenty, some are very expensive, and I ended up getting them from Home Depot; 2 for $15 (I got 2 packs).

Home Depot also had wainscoting (the decorative wood panels) for $12 a panel, our wall is 90 inches so we needed just under 2 full panels.  They are pretty flimsy MDF but they got less brittle after 2 coats of paint.  I made the needed cut, using a circular saw, on the far corner and just ignored the asymmetry.  I wanted to avoid too much cutting so I tested the hight dimension on the wall for hook rail #1 before I bought them and it worked for us.

Both hook rails and the shelf are pine from the dimensional lumber section.  The hook rails are 1x4x8 and the shelf is 1x8x8.  They cost about $20 total.

I painted everything  (SW7005) Pure White to match our trim, the base of the bench and the door frames.

I marked the studs with masking tape in the area I was not planning on putting anything so I didn’t have to constantly look for them.  In my 90 inches, I had 5 studs to work with.  One thing I’ve had problems with in the past is overloading coat hooks so I wanted to make sure this was very strong.  Yes, Dad, I overdid it I am sure, but now I know I can put everything, including a bag of bricks books, on the hooks. Here is my hardware/mounting list (not the order of building)

  • 2 of the 3 corbels are mounted on studs, 3rd is on a screw in anchor
  • The bottom hook rail is mounted using 3in #10 cabinet installation screws
  • The long sections of top hook rail are also mounted to studs with the 3in #10
  • The two short sections of the top rail use wall anchors rated for 50lb
  • Wainscoting is held up by finishing staples from a nail gun, but, finishing nails would work fine.


Order of building;

  1. Wainscoting first, making sure it was perfectly level.  Fun fact, the bench is not level…  I kept the nails around the edge for easier painting later.
  2. Lower rail next.  I positioned the screws so I could cover them with hooks

dry fit everything first

3. Corbels mounted per directions – I decided on the height by a very scientific method; I put a mark where I could still reach but was high enough to look balanced on the wall.  I’ve done enough ‘rule of 3rds’ that it is just part of my life.  I like to use post-its to mark so I can stand back and look and easily move if I need to.


pink marker is a post-it, blue marks are painters tape on my studs

4. Cut sections of wood for the top rail, mine were 4 different lengths so cutting had to be after corbels.  I decided anchoring to the studs was more important than perfect symmetry. In planning, I made sure each long section would have a stud, the short sections I used toggle bolts.

5. The shelf is mostly held by gravity but to be more secure I used the nail gun along the back to anchor it to the top rail.

6. I added hooks, starting by covering my fasteners and then eyeballing (using pink post-its) the others.  The lower hooks are the bigger style and the uppers are small because I didn’t want to bang into the shelf above so I needed a low profile.

7. Touch up paint.  Went over all the nail heads and the seam of the wainscoting and along the joins of the rails to the shelf above.  Looks way better with the hairline cracks filled in with paint

8. Clean up all the tools, trash, and dust and took a picture because this is likely the last time it will be so empty ever!



There are 2 things I wish I could have done differently.

First, I’m not wild about how the upper rail looks cut up because it is slightly thicker than the back of the corbel.  Paint helped but the only real solution would have been to put in verticle strips but that would have looked bad because my spaces were not equal, or, even with the wainscoting.  I found other places on Pinterest that did the same so I’m not the only one with the quandary.  I don’t think anyone will really notice.

Second, I would have preferred to run a router grove on the lower rail so it nested over the wainscoting adding to the structure.  I didn’t because my router is still at a friends house and I wanted to get this done and he was on vacation.  It worked out fine so far at least.

Even with those two reservations, I’m really happy with how this turned out.  I’m proud to contribute this to the Pinterest universe.

Oh! I was asked about the color and we used SW6244 – navel here and in the front hall and it is scary dark on the chip but awesome in person.  The bench stain is Koa, the flooring is a vinyl plank laid in a herringbone pattern (left that to the pros!)


Picking blueberries

Yesterday a Facebook friend was lamenting the gap in her budget.  That underwater feel of not having enough and definitely not having enough for fun stuff.  I offered to give her a few things that have worked for me to earn a little side money without investment or too much extra effort.  Enough other friends asked for the same info that I feel it is worth just writing up here properly not just texting a list of sites.

  1. subscribe to Penny Hoarder.  All my info came from them and there have been dozens that I don’t do because they didn’t fit my life.  The grain of salt for them is that they push out a lot of suggestions and I recommend googling the specific thing you are interested in trying to get more info on it before you do it.
  2. Paribus – absolutely passive service that is great if you order from Amazon or Walmart or a few other online sites.  It keeps track of shipping guarantees and sends a note on your behalf when things deliver late.  I’ve gotten about $40 over the past few months because I tend to get either 5 or 10 dollars in ‘compensation’ each time.  They also do price watch on certain sites and a couple years ago I got $100 when the oven I purchased from went on sale a week after I bought it.  If you shop online this is absolutely worth the sign-up.
  3.  –  This is the best of the bunch for the online ‘survey’ stuff.  They pay 10 a completed job and each job is about 20 min on the computer.  You more or less beta test a website and they record your voice and screen and you think/talk your way through it.  The catch is you need to qualify for each job and they take limited numbers so if you have time to watch it and jump on the ones with broad qualifications, or, are in a few niche categories (usually specific business software testing) you might not find much you can do.  During the phase I was checking daily I usually got 1 or 2 a day.  The best part is they auto-pay to PayPal a week after the completed test.  No requesting, no minimum, just bam – money in PayPal.  I think I’ve earned over $100 in the few months I kept track of it.
  4. JobSpotter – this is a phone app and they want you to take pictures of help wanted signs in real life.  This is a good app if you are out and about because it is just 30 seconds to enter a sign.  The downside is the pay is very low, between .10 and .75 per but it does add up.  I view it as a game to see what my high score picture might be.  So far my top is an adult store that had ‘help wanted’ written in paint on their window.  They prefer unique location jobs that are probably not already on a big website but they still pay .10 for a McDonalds sign.  You also are earning toward a gift card not cash but they have Amazon and plenty of things I would like.  I don’t super go out of my way for .25 but I view it as picking up change from the ground.
  5. Shopkick – another phone app and another one that works with my life because they pay (pennies) when you go to a store they are affiliated with.  If you just open the app in the store you get the points/pennies.  If you have time white shopping there are always ‘scans’ you can do – find the product they want and take a picture of it. Occasionally there is a question about where the item was but that is pretty rare.  You can also get a big point bonus if you actually buy the thing you scan.  Every so often I was planning on getting that thing anyway so I buy the brand they want and get a dollar by submitting my receipt.  The app is easy to use and you can be very passive or do all the things.  You are also working toward gift cards and I’ve made this one my starbucks card, I’ve collected 4 or 5 fancy coffees over time,
  6. Walmart savings catcher.  I use the website version but there is also an app.  You just enter the receipt number and date within a week of shopping and they give the money back if the same item is advertised lower by a competitor.  Honestly I forgot about this one for years and just started back on it so my yield is about .36 right now but I do shop there and I know sometimes I’m passing up a sale at a different store because I just don’t have time to store hop so this makes me feel like I’m getting some of that back.
  7. Rewards points with Chase – my credit card makes it easy to earn points on purchases but this is a risky thing if you don’t pay off your card monthly.  I hate paying interest so I use my credit card as a debit card and don’t spend more than I have but if that isn’t your way don’t depend on this!  If you can pay off monthly, I suggest digging into the system because often they have bonus points if you use their shopping portal.  It is an extra step to log into chase, then go to the rewards page and click the site I was planning on shopping with.  I find it easier to shop the site and fill the cart and just before checkout go log in through chase. The biggest bang for the buck is using the Chase portal for a Groupon.

I’ve tried others and but these are my consistent winners because they work for me in the life I lead already.  I’m out and about, I do the shopping for the family, I shop online, and I have a decent phone, internet, and computer to make it all work.  I’ve had poor luck with the reselling stuff sites but maybe you have more or better stuff?  I listed more or less in the order I think they are worth doing with chase at the bottom because even though I get a good amount from them, you HAVE to pay your credit card in full every month to have it be worth it.  I hope some or at least one helps out!


ps. If you are wondering about the title it is from my favorite economics teacher who had a famous story about the year he picked blueberries for cash and it just stuck with me with the lesson that sometimes you just pick the little berry because it adds up.

Building a garage shelf in 2 hours

(spoiler alert…. or NOT)

I think I have said before that there is no simple “Oh let’s do this” projects in my world.  I count myself lucky if I *only* need to gather tools not find them, or, buy them.  Things are getting better as we unpack and organize but it is a frustratingly slow process.

One thing I intended to start a full 2 weeks ago was build shelving in the garage.  I did my research, plumbed the Pinterest pit, and consulted friends and came out with a plan with few cool things to try but the hitch was that I needed full sheets of plywood and 8ft long 2×4 and my mini van is just not up for that.

Order it you say?  They deliver?  Yes!  I started down that path because I recall someone had free delivery.  Called around last week and no, not free, but $25 is ok.  Spent a few days building the cart, researching weight limits and looking at a few cool options for the next project because if I’m paying for shipping I’m getting everything for the next few projects in one shot.

Cart finally as perfect as I can make it and then I see delivery is $75….  put on the breaks, call, hear  “no, $25 was never a thing” (I swear it really was!) but this puts me in a mind to just buy a utility trailer.  Why shouldn’t we buy a >1K trailer to build a less than $100 garage shelf?  It has been on our list for a while, this just bumped it up.  NOW we need to research trailers!  I already had gone down the path so we just needed to actually do the looking.  That means 1 day lost to thinking, another to research, and on the third we went out at lunch and found the perfect trailer and a good price but they needed 1 more day for paperwork.


Look at that cute trailer and that (kinda) clean garage

Yesterday!  Yesterday we got the trailer and I got to push ‘buy’ on my cart so the lumber guys could pull everything and I finally got the wood at the house.  Now I can start?  Well almost….  It would be much easier to just pull the trailer full of wood into the garage but there is a pile of boxes (much smaller than it was, I’ve been working on it) in the way so I moved them all and walked in the trailer.  This trailer weighs practically nothing,  nearly 100% aluminum and I had no problem walking it full of lumber into the garage.

Finally! Finally, I can start!  I use my impact driver (love!) with a new star bit (love love) and some highly recommended lag screws that require no pre-drill (love love love!).  I put up my back supports and then… then the battery dies.  Oh well, I had to cook dinner anyway and tomorrow I think I can just get it done.

The night passes and morning comes; it is the next day.  Make breakfast, pack lunches, brush 3 sets of hair and find shoes/jackets/papers and bring all the children to school.  Come home and hear the beginning of the supreme court testimony and turn it off.  I can see both sides, I am glad I’m not in charge of that.  At 10am I get out there and by 11:15 I have this.


Lars for scale, and, to show strength.  He is not 300lb but he is also not 200….

So not 100% because I don’t have the short screws I thought I had to screw down the plywood but no project can be finished in just 1 trip to the store.  Given the time yesterday to anchor the backs, I would say this is a 2 hour project IF you have;

  • a clear plan on what you want and how to build it
  • ability to make the cuts and the joints without some youtube research
  • tools
  • materials
  • way to get materials to your house
  • clear space

It personally took me 2 weeks and 4 days to make a 2 hour set of shelves.  I think we need a bit more reality in our building expectations.  Those youtube people just skip right to the building part and make it look so easy.

My further plan is to extend right with top shelving only and to the left I’m torn between another section of 4, or, just another top shelf.  Either way I’ll be faster this time because I have 5 of the 6 necessary steps to get going done already.  It does feel good to finally check this one off the list.

Writing around politics

Hi there

This isn’t really the place for all the writing needed for politics.  I suppose it could be…. but I’m choosing to keep my political stuff for my campaign 99% on facebook on a special page just for it.  It does tend to pull time away from here though, just like any topic I don’t want to post here, I end up not posting at all.  img_8112

Any-hoo – life has been a little crazy.  Last weekend we went to a wedding and it was one of the most pretty and well done weddings I’ve been to.  Probably because it was at a resort that was in the middle of nowhere so we were there with a ton of people we know and no other agenda but hang out.  The key might have been that there were actually very few wedding activities so lots of free time.  The resort was built in the 40’s and 50’s and other than necessary modernizations it is a time capsule.  I told the kids it would be like how grandma went on vacation when she was a little girl.  There were cabins and quaint stoves and tiny cabinets and a beach and overall a mellow vibe.  My kids were 3 of 10 flower children and they had a great time with the crew of kids.  The dresses turned out great overall and in a group you didn’t notice any one individual.

I was absolutely worn out by the weekend and various interactions and packed us up eary to leave so we actually had time at home on Sunday.  I was so tired I went to sleep at 9:30pm and woke up at 6:30am.

Contributing to the crazy of last week was a fundraiser for technology in the schools – something I totally support.  We treated it like a ‘date’ and had a great time but that night led directly into the crazy weekend so it was 3 nights in a row of being ‘on’.

Back to the ‘normal’ week and I’m slowly getting a routine.  A very odd unforeseen circumstance has come up – the sun rises directly in my face when sitting at my desk.  This makes morning work really impossible until I figure out shades.  The to-do list for the house is still giant but got to make that one more of a priority.   I have become fond of cloudy mornings though, funny how things happen.

Knocking around in my head are all the books I’ve managed to read over the past few months, I need to get back to talking about them and my blog friend posted about her summer reads, bringing that back to the front of my brain.

I’ve gotten my gym membership straight again.  We were on a pause for the move and I’m officially back as of tomorrow.  Making time for a real workout is important and Vacation Mom and I need it.  I’m sure all the people we annoy at the gym because we talk missed us terribly.  Thank you, parents, for the good genes that even though I have not worked out properly in months, I’ve kept at a good weight just by watching my intake and being generally active.

The next project to start is garage shelving.  There are still things to finish on ongoing projects but new is more fun right?  I also need to get them up so I can get space in the garage before it gets cold here.

I have also regained my ‘commute’ when I drive to/from the school I get to listen to NPR.  I loved tuning in to the supreme court confirmation hearings last week and I usually catch a good segment one way or the other.  Today though I missed my grandmother (who I also used to call weekly while I drove) because the topic was feminism.  It is a big topic to unpack and the goal if this segment was to highlight the inequality in race and feminism.  That is something I would have loved to talk with her about and I’m just going to have to settle for thinking about it.  Maybe posting about it sometime.

How are you all doing?


In case you ARE interested in the politics

Here is a link to donate to my campaign

Here is a link to my facebook if you want to read


Scribing counter tops and sewing satin

That, and everything in between, about sums up my week last week.  Here are the highlights of the fastest week ever because we don’t start slow, we dive in.  Also, we fumbled Monday because it was a holiday and felt a lot like a Sunday so it was a busy and short week;

  1. First day of school!  It went well, kids had stuff ready and were super excited to go.  So excited they took showers and had dripping wet hair so we had to do some emergency blow drying.  Where was the blow dryer?  Still in a box, but, we found it.  I went with them for the morning to help kids find their way in the new building and it was a joy to see the new building.


    5th, 3rd, and 1st grade 🙂

  2. First week of figuring out drop off and pickup and what exactly to do in between.  There is not as much time as you think during school but after the longest summer every full of much togetherness, having an hour, followed by ANOTHER hour to do things made me dizzy with possibilities.
  3. One thing that was top of the list was a set of counter and cabinets that we didn’t have the builder do but needed to be done in order to set the rest of the kitchen up properly.  It is not totally done because it does not have the sink and a few details yet but it is done enough for now.  I had to really work to make that countertop flush because even brand new houses have non-level walls.  Thank you Dad and YouTube.   I’ll cut a hole and do the plumbing connections (rough in done by builders) sometime.  Knobs are on the way and I have the base molding cut but not painted and shelf hardware but not shelves ready.  Getting these guys together, level, anchored and looking good to this point took some time so worth a mention in a post.


    sink will go over the two vertical doors

  4. Another top of list item was to sew 3 flower girl dresses for a wedding this coming weekend.  I got the cutting out done at a friends house because my sewing stuff was MIA.  I ended up needing to do a thorough search and rescue for them though because every other pair of scissors I could find were dull as cspan and when I did find them I literally kissed them.  I got through 1.5 dresses last week and today finished the half done one and did another half of the final dress.  There is a fit component I don’t want to do until I get the body but then they are home so I don’t have time to do the sewing so they wait until the next chunk of time.  All three need a little hand sewing but that is what car rides are for.  Ps.  Pink satin is not an easy first sewing project for the house.
  5. Friday I put away all the sewing and got ready for friends to visit from ND.  They are the perfect houseguests in general but really perfect first house guests.  They don’t care that their bedside tables were boxes.  They viewed our blank walls and windows as opportunities to brainstorm solutions and it was a pleasure to have them (even if there was puke.  Kids puke as often as cats.  Your welcome for your daily dose of birth control)
  6. The event over the weekend had high points and low.  I love to see everyone and I adore the two people that are now on the throne and they made the most gorgeous outfits and presence ever – they set the bar so high.  The low was some stupid misses that I’m sure I noticed more than anyone else but I my hands were tied to try and fix it so it just left a bad taste.  It was still a good event
  7. Last but not least, I launched my campaign for school board.  After the referendum last year this is way less stress.  If I don’t win nothing bad happens like when the levy failed and they had to close an elementary school  If I do win I’ll be happy to take my turn on the board and making sure good choices are made for the kids in our community.  If any of my readers want to help out my cause here is a link for donations.  They are anonymous to others but per laws and stuff if you donate $100 or more I need your name, address etc for the report but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I also went to a school board meeting because I would never ask for a job I don’t have a high awareness of.  I can’t believe there are people who run and never come to any meetings?


    I want one of those good chairs…. the chairs back here lack lumbar support.

Now it is a new week and I have a PTO meeting and a fundraising event (for scholarships, not me) and we get to go to a wedding for some of our more fun friends so I’m sure it will be absolutely fabulous.


After 2 weeks in the house, nearly 3, we are getting used to things here and it isn’t all ‘so new’ anymore.  Although the timing of the move was not per the original plan, it worked out ok to have these ‘dog days’ of summer as a transition time.  This zone between coming home from Pennsic and the start of school is always an odd time for us, why not pile on with moving.  My time hop is treating me to our final weeks of summer from years past and we usually do something but I think we are all ok with the laid back no-plan plan we are doing.

Even with no-plan, we still do stuff.  One can not stay in a house with 3 kids 24/7 and remain sane.  We have gone to a few playgrounds, played with the new neighbors, library visit, Menards every other day – the usual.  Niamh has leveled up to Mothers Helper and has spent a few nice little chunks of time being the playmate for a 2-year-old while mom gets time to get something done.  She can’t stay solo with them yet but there isn’t a stay at home parent out there that couldn’t use someone to occupy the kid(s) for a few hours so they can focus.  For me, it is great to have something special for her to do, to make her feel in charge in a time when there are so many things she can’t honestly effect.

Big milestone, the first for the house; Fiona can now bike.  The story of her no training wheels journey is longer then her sisters and in the end, she blamed me for holding her up (literally, like holding the bike) when just the week before she freaked if I let go.  I don’t care what changed but I knew that if she just focused on it she would get it.  The first week in the house she decided that she would do it and I would watch and in less than an afternoon she was done.  The amazing part is that she now wants to ride every day, as often as possible.  She goes out alone (I can see her from the windows) and rides in circles in the dead end about a million times with side trips up and down the driveway.  Niamh and Zoe were inspired by her and they all bike now way more than ever and even devised a few synchronized biking shows for me and they are more impressive than I was expecting.  Yesterday Lars got home from training and he and I walked the dog and all 3 kids rode bikes and we had our first real family walk in the quiet little neighborhood we moved into.

Otherwise, we are mostly keeping to ourselves.  I am looking at the month ahead with activities and trips and visitors and school starting Tuesday and my campaign and looking at this time as my opportunity to connect the family to this house.  I’m looking forward to getting back to my workouts and meetings and going out with friends and having people over but quiet is good for now too.