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Summer Projects

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Various summer projects have been keeping me busy.

This started with repairing our fence that was blown down a year ago. (See this post for picture: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2017/03/10/blow-the-fence-down/) Digging post holes is a bitch.

Then we had to repaint our garage. It had peeling paint when we moved in 14 years ago, and well, it has only gotten worse. It was just as daunting a task as I had always feared it would be. But, it was worth it.

This is after we scraped, before it got its new coat of paint.

Check this post for more before pictures: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2013/06/25/a-determined-dog-cannot-be-fenced/

The garage project got sidetracked by my need for a gazebo. I have always wanted one, but this year prices dropped enough for it to become a reality. I got the model with both bug screens and privacy panels. It was so worth the money to have both. I may be referring to it as my “she shed”.

I can if I want to.

Bug-free outdoor living

Spending more time in our yard made me realize that we have neglected it for the last eight years or so, which is also how long my son has been around. He has a way of sucking up our time. In a good way.

I started doing things I haven’t done in years like weeding, trimming, putting down accent pieces. I remembered how I always hated how the dogs would disappear behind the garage late at night. I would have to go back there to get them and there was no lighting and it was so dark and scary. So, with no idea if there would be enough sun to charge them, I installed solar lights on the fence. FYI-there is enough sun to charge them, even if not fully.

The path goes to nowhere, but at least I get to use my decade’s old stepping stones again.

We even planted a few plants and a garden, except something is eating my sunflowers’ leaves, they are short even though I purchased the mammoth variety, and now my pumpkin plants are dying.

My idea is to make my backyard a little haven until we can afford a camper to go spend time in.

Next year, on to the front yard.

My backyard is pretty enough now to hold a party. But for what occasion? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Come back for my post next week to find out!

Your past shapes you. It can’t be undone.
ANGRY MACEY
NOW AVAILABLE $.99!

M’s Train Station Bedroom (& My New Upstairs)

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When my son was born, his nursery was on the first floor of our house, the same as our master bedroom. We put his nursery in what could be described as a very small bedroom, or maybe a home office type of dealio. As the years passed, we converted his crib into a toddler bed. Soon it became clear that he was ready for a big-boy bed (and also a larger room to house his bounty of toys and Thomas trains).

Our house is about 118 years old. Upstairs are two bedrooms, a large area at the top of the stairs, and the attic. I repainted the one bedroom when we first moved in. For years, that was our guest bedroom, even though we seldom have guests. The other bedroom served as our hobby/craft room. Mostly, in recent years, it was a hoarders paradise. I didn’t repaint the walls because they were covered with wallpaper. Not just any wallpaper, but wallpaper with pink roses on it. Yuck. Not my style.

So, I got brave and decided I would remove the wallpaper and let my son pic the paint colors for his new room. The removal process wasn’t brutal, but it did take forever. And my overall thought while working on it was “why the heck didn’t I do this sooner!” The wallpaper was peeling anyway, and I really disliked it more than I realized. I got a crazy idea in my head one day to make it a “train” room. My son loves Thomas, but he would outgrow that too soon. So, I decided on a room based on real trains. I realized I had a whole bunch of items already that could be used to make a great “train station” room. I have included pictures below. Mind you, most of these ideas I got from randomly Googling, and usually the other people executed it better than I.

Before of the bedroom with wallpaper. Had to use this picture of my skinny puppy. She hasn't been that thin in 10 years.

Before pic of the bedroom with wallpaper. Had to use this picture of my skinny puppy. She hasn’t been that thin in 10 years.

Wallpaper being removed. A peek of the walls being white.

Wallpaper being removed. A peek at the walls being white.

I only chipped off the LOOSE paint!

I only chipped off the LOOSE paint!

Finished bedroom showing bench and train pics.

Finished bedroom showing bench and train pics.

Finished bedroom with lanterns over twin-sized bed. I got those lanterns at a garage sale years ago.

Finished bedroom with lanterns over twin-sized bed. I got those lanterns at a garage sale years ago.

Train arrival board. It is a black magnetic dry-erase board. All the letters and lines are removable for when he gets older.

Train arrival board. It is a black magnetic dry-erase board. All the letters and lines can be removed as he grows.

Railroad crossing sign coat rack. Really pulls the room together.

Railroad crossing sign coat rack. Really pulls the theme of the room together.

Clocks showing the different time zones. We already had the pay phone and rocking train.

Clocks showing the different time zones. We already had the pay phone and rocking train.

The frames I got on clearance in the craft dept at Meijer and painted myself. The pictures are from calendars and magazines.

The frames I got on clearance in the craft dept at Meijer and painted myself. The pictures are from calendars and magazines.

Cute child's desk I got for $10 at a garage sale. I think of it as the station master's desk.

Cute child’s desk I got for $10 at a garage sale. I think of it as the station master’s desk.

I bought the electric lantern years ago. Almost got rid of it.

I bought the electric lantern years ago. Almost got rid of it.

Made this a few years ago, but this toy box would fit into the room as well.

Made this a few years ago, but this toy box would fit into the room as well.

I also decided to repaint the stairway area as well. I have always HATED that pink-beige color that is all over our house (to cover up all the barn red that yet another previous resident loved). I have worried for the 11 years we lived here how hard it would be to paint over the stairs, where the ceiling is very high. It sucked, but I got it done. And yes, you might have noticed that I have a compulsion where I cannot paint a room all one color. Blame Punky Brewster ๐Ÿ˜‰

The stairway before.

The stairway before.

The stairway after.

The stairway after.

Top of stairs before.

Top of stairs before.

Top of stairs after. I couldn't resist accentuating all the weird angles.

Top of stairs after. I couldn’t resist accentuating all the weird angles.

Attic hobbit door before.

Attic hobbit door before.

Attic hobbit door after.

Attic hobbit door after.

Also, I have always thought the wood paneling was hideous, but I believe it would be too costly to remove and replace with drywall. I’m pretty sure the paneling covers up crumbling plaster walls. And it goes without saying that I would like new carpet (low pile purple would be my dream), but I will just try to ignore the brown shag as much as possible.

This pic is from when we first moved in. Note the heinous brown carpeting on the shelf.

This pic is from when we first moved in. Note the heinous brown carpeting on the shelf.

Painted. Carpet removed. Signs outside the bedroom keep the train theme, as well as a trunk that could be waiting to be loaded on a train. Trunk was from Family Dollar, under $20.

Painted. Carpet removed from shelf. Signs outside the bedroom keep the train theme, as well as a trunk that could be waiting to be loaded on a train. Trunk was from Family Dollar, under $20.

When I removed the carpeting, what was left was plywood covered in glue residue. I covered it with more paneling, so that now I can use the space for storage.

When I removed the carpeting, what was left was plywood covered in glue residue. I covered it with more paneling, so that now I can use the space for storage.

I started these projects in May. It took me until the end of July to fully complete them. But I wasn’t working on them every day, either.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time & GIVEAWAY going on over at Goodreads (ends August 15, 2015)
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Caboose Cake

Last year I made my son, M, a rather complex Thomas the Tank Engine cake for his birthday. You can get more info and instruction for Thomas here: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2012/11/27/beginners-luck-the-post-with-the-thomas-cake/

My finished Thomas The Tank Engine cake

My finished Thomas The Tank Engine cake

I did a month of preparation for it (planning, shopping, baking, freezing, studying Cake Boss episodes). My son still remembers the cake because pictures of it keep circulating on my digital picture frame.

I started asking him a couple of months ago what kind of cake he wanted this year. First he told me “a Creeper cake” (from Scooby-Doo).

The Creeper from Scooby-Doo

The Creeper from Scooby-Doo

I told him no. Beyond my skill level and too scary.

Then he fell in love with the story “The Little Red Caboose” by Marian Potter. Then all he wanted was a caboose cake. Last year was the beginning of the train, this year the end. A caboose is pretty much a rectangle. I could handle that.

My inspiration: The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter

My inspiration: The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter

I had two goals with this cake, which greatly affected the outcome:

1. Make it taste better than the Thomas cake.

Thomas was all about the looks. I used fondant and butter cream frosting to make him look awesome. I wasn’t crazy about the taste of either of them. This year I vowed to use regular old in-the-can Duncan Hines frosting, no matter what the impact on my finished creation would be.

Thomas was made with two boxes of cake mix. The caboose is only made from one box. I used yummy strawberry cake and layered it with chocolate frosting. I covered the outside with colored vanilla frosting.

2. Do not be stressed out.

Well, I was a little. I only had like 2 1/2 hours to assemble the cake on the morning of my son’s birthday. But that was only like one day’s worth of stress compared to last year’s weeks worth of so much anxiety I couldn’t sleep. When I made the Thomas cake, I wasn’t working. I had plenty of time to plan cakes and worry last year. Not so much this year.

So, when you judge the result of my efforts, take those two things into consideration.

I present to you, my caboose cake!

My Caboose Cake!

My Caboose Cake!

It could put a diabetic in a coma!

It is complete with smoke stack, buffers, and a brake wheel (the brake wheel is important in the story).

It…looks a little like a houseboat???

I was way too far into my hasty assembly and decorating before I realized that I had forgotten to make another lower level for the back.

But look at the fine details of the railing! The door! The windows!

I think I should at least get credit for trying. My asbestos friend said she would not even attempt such a thing. (Which is silly, because I have seen her make an adorable Stitch costume in one night. Creativity flows from one medium to another. Except music. I can’t make music to save my life.)

The ultimate test for me is if my son can tell what the cake is supposed to be. And he could!

Then he pointed out that there were only buffers on on end. And he wanted me to make the rest of the train cars :/

I pretty much used the knowledge I gained from Thomas to make this cake.

1. Draw picture.

Rough drawing  (Click on any picture to make it larger)

Rough drawing (Click on any picture to make it larger)

2. I used paper to create a template.

3. I baked and froze my cakes, wrapping them in wax paper and foil to prevent freezer burn. I used one box of cake mix and split it between 2 loaf pans. Note to Self: Level the cakes at this step next time.

Frozen cakes

Frozen cakes

4. I took them out of the freezer and cut them according to the templates.

Frozen cakes with templates

Frozen cakes with templates

5. I stacked them using frosting. (This is where I should have consulted my original drawing again. Whoops. You know what they say: Live and learn and eat a houseboat.) I slid two wooden dowels through the high part.

Stacked cakes with dowels

Stacked cakes with dowels

6. Frosted the outside.

Covered in red frosting

Covered in red frosting

7. Applied decorations. I used Hershey’s kisses for the wheels, fruit roll-ups for the windows, cinnamon discs for the lights, Rice Krispie treats for the back end, and a huge-ass Hershey bar for the roof. Most of the rest of the details are made out of licorice. Which you could not pay me to eat, but it proved to be a very versatile decorating tool. The railing was made with the help of paper sucker sticks and toothpicks (DO NOT EAT TOOTHPICKS!).

Constructing caboose details

Constructing caboose details

8. I used chocolate frosting for the ground, brown sugar for the gravel/dirt, and licorice for the rails and ties. I wanted to have green frosting for grass, but I forgot and dyed all my frosting red.

*Moral of the story: Take your time! Do not rush!

Cake showing all details and tracks

Cake showing all details and tracks

9. Apply dinosaur candles to instantly convert the caboose into one of my son’s other favorite entertainment franchises: Dinosaur Train!

Caboose with dinosaur candles inserted

Caboose with dinosaur candles inserted

10. Light candles.

CABOOSE-11

11. Make wish.

12. Blow out flame.

13. Cut cake, removing all non-edible objects.

14. EAT!

Destruction: The tastiest part of cake-baking

Destruction: The tastiest part of cake-baking

15. Re-light candles. Make more wishes.

Remember what my Thomas Cake post was titled?

“Beginner’s Luck”

Yep. This is what happens when beginner’s luck runs out.

The dashing birthday boy!

The dashing birthday boy!

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