2010 Tree Ornaments

November 30, 2010   //  Posted in: Holiday-Related Projects   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

I’ve never had a theme Christmas tree. It’s not to say that I don’t like or appreciate them, but the trees that my parents had tended to be a hodge-podge of random ornaments, and that nostalgia has hung close. Their trees can’t even hold all of the accumulated ornaments anymore – some are handmade, some are cheap-but-cute finds, and others represent travels and memories. I like ornate, out of the ordinary ornaments (ie. not just a bunch of red and green glass balls), and I try to buy a new one anytime I travel somewhere on vacation. Since I haven’t surrendered into buying bulk sets of all white, red, green, blue ornaments to take up space on my trees, my trees have been sparse for the last few years (lends to a smaller, more creative “tree” like I wrote about here, and like the one I decorated this year). Nonetheless, my collection is growing, and I’m appreciative and love the ones that I do have.

So, it’s not my priority to stock up on new ornaments, but I do try and find a few new ones every year. Here’s a peek at a few that I bought/received this year!

A glass ornament that mom bought me last year for Christmas (her tradition is to buy me a new one every year).

Glass snowman ornament, a gift from mom.

This shell ornament was bought in San Francisco. I coveted some glass trolley ornaments at a Pier 39 shop, but this one was sturdy enough to make it back in a tight suitcase.

Seashell covered ornament from a little tourist shop on Pier 39 in San Fran.

A friend of mine knits amazing monster toys (in addition to throwing original pottery and painting). This year, she created mini-monster heads to serve as tree ornaments, so I scooped one up. You can browse her art, blog, and store at

Monster Ornament by

A summer garage sale find, this cute gingerbread house just had to come home with me.

Little clay gingerbread house found at a garage sale.

This copper star ornament was on clearance at Kohl’s, actually. I liked the simplicity of it. Since I don’t have a tree-topper for my tree (I’ve made them out of paper in previous years), I promoted this little guy to the top position.

Joined stars ornament - I stuck this one on the top of the faux-tree this year.

This year, I was lucky/happy to stumble upon a little Pottery Barn-esque tree with a burlap-wrapped base. It’s fake, and smaller than I believe a Christmas tree should be, but it will definitely work for now. Cody helped me decorate and then promptly fell asleep.

Cody, tired after decorating the Christmas tree.

Love/Hate Wallpaper Removal

November 29, 2010   //  Posted in: Dining Room, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

While I didn’t have a lot of wallpaper to remove when I moved into the house (thank god), the stuff that was there challenged me. Instinctively, I bought and tried a slew of wallpaper removal products that were on the shelves at my local DIY stores. Without getting into details of what products I tried and which worked better than others, I’ll say this: Water worked best.

My ultimate success was achieved by scoring the wallpaper (typical scoring tool used), soaking a large sponge in warm water, and then proceeding to “wash” the wallpaper and wet it as much as possible (keep a towel on hand to limit how many drips reach the floor). Once the paper had absorbed the water, a flat edge scraper was the only tool I needed to cleanly strip the paper from the surface. I tried this technique on both plaster and drywall successfully, and can also report that it worked on old (circa 1970’s) wallpaper and newer (early 2000’s – featuring much stronger glue) wallpaper.

Anyways, here’s a photo I snapped to show, side-by-side, how spray remover worked compared to water after soaking for 1 minute:

Left: Fancy spray removal. Right: Wall saturated with plain water.

Build A Recycled Treehouse

November 29, 2010   //  Posted in: Deck, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses

Everyone knows a tree that’s begging for a treehouse. Pete’s┬ádream tree lived at his parents country house in Western NY. He decided that it was time to act on the dream once I began to disassemble the existing deck that was on the back of my house, as I had a lot of extra lumber laying around — little handy-girl was going to get her own fantastic recycled treehouse using the scrap lumber from my demo project! The tree he had in mind was blessed with 5 strong branches growing outward, and after doing some quick sketches and measurements, we figured that this was something we could do ourselves (with his parent’s help and permission of course).

The Tree, before.

The first thing he planned to do was to cut one of the 5 branches down to serve as a base underneath the main platform. Once that was down, we could really begin to identify and mark where the other branches would have to be notched to support girders and joists (note: each branch was very thick and healthy – we wouldn’t have notched into them if we couldn’t rely on their strength). The girders sit snuggly in the shallow notches, and were then nailed and bolted into the tree.We decided early on to try and cantilever one edge of the treehouse (cool balcony) and because none of the deckboards I had salvaged were long enough, his parents sacrificed an old swing set to serve as essential framing.

  • Carefully creating notches in each of the branches that will support the girders. The girders sit snuggly in the shallow notches, and were then nailed and bolted into the tree.
  • Nailing boards into the girder notches (temporarily, so that we could level the other 3 tree notches with the first).
  • The beam at the top of the swing set was removed and reused as main support girders.
  • The beam at the top of the swing set was removed and reused as main support girders.
  • First girder up!
  • Three girders up! That's all we needed - the rest of the frame will be supported by joists!
  • Feels really high when you're standing up there. Testing out the strength of the girders in this picture.

The joists of the treehouse base went up just like the joists on the deck were installed – the hangers supported many recycled 2×6 boards, and created a solid and level (very solid, and very level) frame that would come to support the floorboards.

  • First joists up!
  • Added cross-braces (is there a different name for these?) to reinforce the strength of the joists.
  • View of the joists and cross-pieces from ground-level.

The old deck on the back of my house had been stained red, a color which neither of us really liked… so when it came to laying the new floor on the treehouse frame, we decided to use the un-stained underside of the floorboards. Many of the boards went on effortlessly (custom cut by Pete), but the edge at one edge required quite a bit of extra work in order to make sure the floorboards were properly secured to the joists. In the end, it really turned out looking beautiful.

  • Final floorboard installed!
  • Treehouse platform from below - the red boards were actually the upward facing boards on the old deck.

Building the ladder and handrails were our last steps – the railing posts and rails were easy – all materials were reused from the railings on my old deck. The ladder was also a quick afternoon project, although I must point out that we did buy new lumber for it because we didn’t have scraps that were the correct length. The ladder is secured to the tree, the treehouse, and positioned soundly on a level cement step in the grass.

  • Used the aluminum ladder as a template for the new treehouse ladder.
  • Completed platform and ladder. The ladder is secured to both the tree and the platform, and positioned on the level concrete platform on the ground.
  • Final railing, up. This photo is of the balcony end of the treehouse.
  • Handy-girl showing off her new treehouse.

It turned out nicer than I could have imagined – it’s very solid (not only able to hold handy-girl, but many adults could fit up there as well). The final structure measures 10-feet off the ground, and is 12′ long, end to end. The width of the balcony end is 8′, and the other end is 6′ wide, meaning that the total size of the treehouse is about 84-square-feet. Not shabby.