Monthly Archives: February 2008

Skandia Shelves — So Cool But So Unavailable

IMG_1413, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

This is a photo of one wall in my home office. The shelves are by Skandia, and I bought them a couple years ago at the Container Store. Originally they served as a pantry shelf at our last house. At the time they seemed outrageously expensive, but after having owned them for a couple years I am convinced of their utility and longevity. The pieces are infinitely adjustable and changeable and break down into manageable flat sections for moving or storage. I am so glad I bought these instead of the IKEA shelves I also considered.

I also find it appealing how European these shelves seem to me. When we stayed on a sheep farm near Auckland, New Zealand, the farmers had this type of shelving throughout their cottage. I know NZ is not Europe and that my ranch house is about as far from a cool oceanside cottage as it could get, but hey … they are still cool shelves.

The only trouble is — Container Store no longer carries them! I’ve heard more than one story about why. One salesperson told me the manufacturing facility moved and that they couldn’t keep up with demand. Another said it had to do with the falling price of the dollar since these are imported from Scandinavia. I am more inclined to believe the latter.

Apparently you can still special order particular shelf pieces through the Container Store, but it takes multiple weeks for the items to arrive. I am unsure how pricing is affected but would expect it to be more. They said eventually they might carry the line again. Hopefully they will.

Dremel Projects

About 6 months ago I bought a Dremel 400 Series XPR rotary tool. I had a few projects in mind but was a little concerned that I wouldn’t get a lot of use out of it.

It turns out that my Dremel’s been really useful for some odd projects that I never would have anticipated before buying it. I thought it would be useful to post some of those projects here for anyone researching the tool who like me, wondered if it was worth purchasing.

Fixing the fence

The planer attachment for the 400 series tool allows you to shave off just a little bit of something. In the case of my sticky fence, I used the tool to take off about 1/4 inch of wood that was causing the gate to not shut. It took a dozen or so passes to get sufficient wood removed.

Grinding brick


Changing out a porch fixture, it became clear that I couldn’t hang the lamp straight without chipping away at the corner of a brick that was sticking out beyond the side of the house. It’s sort of tough to see here, but I needed to remove about 1/4 inch of the corner of the brick that was poking out in the top row. I used a sanding bit and it did the job smoothly and beautifully. I think a chisel might have done more damage.

Trimming the headrail of a wood blind
Getting the exact right fit on blinds can be tough. I bought a really inexpensive matchstick blind for the home office, and it was about 1/2 inch too wide for the window opening. I used the cut-off wheel bit to take a bit off. Then it fit!

Cut a steel pipe
When we moved into the house, the patch of grass out near the garage had an old metal spinning clothesline. The line contraption set on top of a pole that rose vertically up out of the ground. I dug nearly two feet down into the ground trying to get the pole out and it wouldn’t budge. Finally I put the heavy-duty cut off wheel onto the Dremel, reached down into the hole, and cut that sucker off. I filled the hole back up and haven’t thought about it since.

Other projects I’ve done with the tool:

  • Buffing the front door handleset
  • Cut off the head of a nail stuck in a 2×4
  • Cut notches into hardboard

Do you have a Dremel? What do you do with your Dremel? Please comment!!!

Lighting Your Future



I’m working on a story about lighting, and it seems that the new hot thing is the L.E.D. This sort of lighting is super efficient, and the coolest part (I think) is its color-changing ability. Check out this short piece in the NYT on an L.E.D. bulb you can buy that will fit a regular socket. You can change the light to 15 different colors via remote control!

Semi-Custom Drapes on a Budget

Just recently I found some discount drapery panels in just the shade of camel I most wanted for my dining/living room. At around $15 per panel, they were cheap enough for me to buy an extra one to create a box pleat valance for the top of the window. What follows below are the photos that explain where the window treatment started and where it’s ended up.

This photo shows what the window and room looked like when we bought the house:

More living room

I removed the sheers and painted the room in Benjamin Moore China Blue. We pulled up the carpet and buffed the hardwood floors too. Notice how the window doesn’t have a lot of trim on it:
may 23 upload 466

I installed the builder grade (cheapest) white composite blinds from Budget Blinds. For this window it was around $50. When the window is as simple as this one is, it’s pretty easy to hang the blinds yourself.

may 23 upload 468

Next came the panels. I hung them on the inside bar of a double rod.


For the valance, I used sticky velcro to attach a valance I stitched out of the extra panel. The step-by-step photos of how to stitch the valance are in the photo set on my flickr account.


Voila! A semi-custom drape. This probably came to around $100 including the blinds, the fabric and the hardware. The black metal tiebacks were on sale at Target.


How to Extend the Life of Your Roses



Happy Valentine’s Day! If you got flowers, or even if you didn’t, you might find this story on extending the life of cut flowers really useful. It’s from the L.A. Times.

Valentine’s Treats, Takeout Style



Isn’t it strange how the best tasting foods aren’t always the prettiest?

This is a photo of cream cheese kolaches from The Kolache Depot, and it was hands down the tastiest, most unique item I tried researching the story I wrote about takeout treats for today’s Dallas Morning News Taste section.

It was not the prettiest, though, and so its relative position on the page is less prominent than some of the others. I’m not complaining, it’s just interesting to note things like that when I see the outcome of what I submit.

Tips from Private Arboretum Tour

IMG_1343, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

This is a miniature orange that came from a tree growing in a greenhouse at the Dallas Arboretum. On Friday I was part of a group that went on a private tour of the growing and staging areas there. The greenhouse with the orange trees had the most amazing flowery sweet scent to it.

Jimmy Turner led the tour. He’s the horticulturalist in charge of the place, and I thought I would pass along three of his tips:

  • The best containers for all over flowering are the kind sold at They far outperform coir in Texas heat. They are completely reusable.
  • The best source for wire topiaries is Green Piece out of Canada. They are surprisingly inexpensive.
  • Expanded shale is hands down the number one soil amendment for improving the clay soil in North Texas.

The Fan that Choked the Blog

IMG_1341, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

This ceiling fan, or more accurately the project of installing it, had me stuck for a long time. It sat on the home office floor more than a month while I got busy with other things, frustrated and intimidated at the thought of leveling and securing the electrical box from up in the attic.

It would take a long time to explain the whys and wherefores of the old-box/new-box ceiling drama. It would be useful to probably no one.

Instead what I thought might be helpful is to say something about the value of hiring a pro, and how getting over the hump by completing one challenging project can lift spirits and create new momentum. There is value in struggling. Once struggling has gone on for a bit, there is more value in finishing.

I hired an electrician to tear out the old support and install a new one along with a new box. He didn’t install the fan because the box replacement caused some drywall damage, which he wasn’t prepared to fix. I took care of that and hooked up the fan yesterday afternoon. It is so much nicer and more finished in the office now.

I feel less stuck now, and am taking advantage of that to post some blogs and make some progress on new projects. I should have hired help sooner, and that is the lesson I take away.