Estate Sale Find – Woodmark Wing Chair

Hekman Wing Chair, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

Check out the fabulous wing chair my mom bought me for $50 at an estate sale! I love it. It is made by Woodmark which is now owned by Hekman.

Here it is with a long dog needlepoint pillow on it:

And here it is with a long dog on it:


Ruby likes!

DIY Distressed Dining Table

Not too long ago I decided to change up the arrangement of the formal living and dining areas in my house.  I’d rather formally dine than formally sit around, and there was just too little space for a table in the originally intended spot under the chandelier.  So I flipped living and dining areas.  I like it much better now.  We sit in this area a ton more.

At first we sat at the old table:

Nice but stuffy.  I sold it for $140 for it on craigslist a couple weeks ago.  The lady who picked it up, she was eccentric.  She wore riding pants and equestrian boots and spoke about her horses with a real twang.  She pulled up with a flatbed trailer, and she talked as if she has a giant warehouse on her property full of craigslist furniture.

To replace it I purchased this one (also from craigslist) for $75, with the intention of refinishing it:

Inspired by Holly Baker’s fabulous blog In the Fun Lane, I decided to go with a distressed white/gray look.

This trend is everywhere now.  Hot hot hot.  I have read that since the economy is bad, design is all about old and beat up finishes now.  Paint it gray!  Rip those jeans!  Embrace your inner junkiness!

After a couple coats of paint, some hammer banging and sandpapering, here is the after.  I think it turned out well.

I am the Junk Fairy: Sandbox = Raised Veg. Garden

Sandbox, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

A week or so ago I came across this sandbox in a neighbor’s brush-and-bulky trash pile. It’s about 3.5 feet square, and I think it would make an excellent raised vegetable garden bed. After removing the shade cover, I think the posts would work well as frames or supports for a couple tomatoes, or maybe some beans.

I don’t have a good sunny spot for this, so my brother-in-law David is going to use it in his backyard. Success! Junk in, junk out. I am now gifting junk! I am truly the junk fairy!

Free Wood Everywhere

My Neighbor’s Woodpile, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

About a month ago there was a gigantic snowstorm here in Dallas. In one day it snowed more than 12 inches.

This record-breaking event also broke a lot of branches. Evergreens were especially hard-hit, with huge live oaks and magnolias snapping like twigs under the weight of the snow.

Since then, piles and piles of wood keep appearing out in front of houses for brush pickup. The city has made at least one sweep through my neighborhood, but as the cleanup continues the piles keep growing and multiplying, and the city seems to be slowing down. The pile above has been blocking my dog-walking path for weeks.

This got me thinking – what could I use all this wood for? Firewood is an obvious option. But my fireplace has gas logs, and I don’t have an outside fire pit. Surely someone should pick up the huge stumps for firewood?!?

Here are some other thoughts:

Branch arrangement (from

Another branch arrangement (at my local Pottery Barn, and every other similar store)

Wall decoration from Life in the Fun Lane (hands down my new favorite blog!!)

Stump table (from West Elm, who would have thought?)

Magnolia wreaths.  This one ( looks like a holiday one, but I’ve seen square ones recently in stores that are more year-round.

Fear Not the Leaky Faucet!

Is this yucky or what. I am embarrassed to say this exists in my home. It’s the guest bathroom sink, and yes, it’s rusty and gross. This photo reminds me of a visiting China a few years ago and seeing lots of odd unpleasant bathrooms.

This room is on my 2010 to-dos, but in the meantime, the faucet started leaking when my mom visited a few days ago. This leak was pretty major — the cold side was a steady stream. It put me in a really bad mood. I’d just had the plumber here for a different issue, and it was a Sunday, and I just didn’t feel like dealing.

Surprisingly, underneath the sink, only the hot side had a shutoff valve. Not surprisingly, it was raining outside, and I had a tough time finding the key to open up the main water shutoff in the front yard.

Having never fixed a faucet I gave myself 50-50 odds of fixing the problem without a plumber. After consulting the internet, carefully disassembling and visiting Home Depot for parts, I put the thing back together. Lo and behold, no drips! Maybe 2 hours tops. My mom commented later it’s nice to turn a faucet, have the water shut off, and THEN have the faucet turn a hair further so you know it’s all good. I must agree, that is satisfaction.

So for anyone unlucky enough to be searching how to fix a faucet this morning … buck up and do it yourself! I immediately calculated what I saved on the plumber and spent it on a new kitchen machine I will blog about soon.

Fixing a Wobbly Lamp Using a Lock Washer










Right between the saddle and the long neck on this lamp is the key to keeping it from wobbling — a lock washer.  Before that fix, for the longest time, this nice porcelain retro lamp leaned a bit:

There are dozens of posts on the internet that describe how to rewire a lamp, but they often skip the part about including a lock washer on each side of the assembly (inside and outside the lamp) to keep it from unscrewing itself and becoming wobbly over time.  I learned this trick from the people at Royal Touch at Coit and Arapaho in Dallas.

Here is a closeup of a lock washer:

Also – when rewiring don’t forget your underwriter’s knot:









This great illustration comes from the Flickr account of b_light, who has an awesome photo set on How to Wire a Lamp.  It is worth a look.

Here is the rewired lamp with a new $10 shade from Tuesday Morning:

Before and After, Washer-Dryer

O good times, for this…

… is now this …

Fancy!  My new washer and dryer play music.  I pulled the trigger on this purchase recently when the old Kenmore washer started leaking.  So far I have found front-loading far superior:

  • The washer uses far less water, less than you would think could clean anything.  Before, I thought if you opened a front-loader mid-cycle, water would spill out everywhere.  Not so, because the clothes at their wettest are merely soaked.
  • The dryer filter ends up with a fraction of the lint the old machine produced, ergo clothes must be less beat up in this process.
  • The “Steam Refresh” cycle on the dryer removes odors and wrinkles.  I am gradually refreshing more things instead of washing.
  • The stationary drying rack lets you dry items like sneakers and delicates without tumbling.

This Samsung pair was disturbingly expensive but ranked first in the Consumer Reports test.  I highly recommend if you have to replace your set.

The Ravendale Greenhouse


It’s a lucky week for me.  Check out my new find.  It’s a greenhouse!  Recovered from brush and bulky!  Without a doubt my best (and largest) trash find ever.

The process of acquiring the greenhouse was quite a thrill.  I spied it on a nearby block while riding in a car with a business associate.  She had driven us from an office downtown to a meeting in Garland.  We swung back through my neighborhood so she could show me a house she’s thinking about buying on our way back to the downtown office.  It was pure coincidence that this block was a quarter mile from mine.  I thought about asking her to stop the car so I could exit and examine it, but I wasn’t sure that would give such a good impression.  Let’s talk business… no wait a sec, lemme go pick through this pile of trash over here first.

After returning downtown to fetch my car, I drove back and eventually found it again.  A neighbor and a couple passing cars were eyeing the structure, which was sitting in the street, just past the curb.  I knew time was of the essence here, it was quite heavy, and I didn’t have the truck.

Hmmmm, how to move something fast during the day in my neighborhood?  Lawn crew!  It took about ten seconds to find some guys with a flatbed.  Communicating was difficult, but with hand signals and gestures they got the point that I needed some help moving something a few blocks.  I offered $30 but ended up paying $40, as it required moving a bunch of equipment from the trailer to the truck.  In retrospect perhaps I should have been more shrewd.  I find that the rule of Craigslist, garage sales, and just about every other junk transaction is that you should take the asking price or first number you expect to pay, and knock it down by about a third.  Maybe more.

For now it’s in my back drive, waiting for me to figure a final space for it.  It needs a replacement roof panel, and it could do with a new paint job on the frame, but other than that she seems good to go.  In the spirit of naming great estates and boats and all things fancy, I am naming her The Ravendale Greenhouse, for the street on which I found her.

Scardello’s Cheese 101

Scardello Cheese 101, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

This post is for my mom. Growing up, I disliked cheese. Really that’s an understatement. I detested cheese. I remember eyeing and sniffing mom’s noodle and rice dinners (anything with more than a single ingredient), which I’m sure were really tasty, and accusing her of sneaking in cheese. I would become nauseous watching her and my dad eat queso at the Paradise II Mexican food restaurant. The smell of my dad’s shaker of Parmesan grossed me out. Once, I heard Bryant Gumbell say on the Today Show that he didn’t like cheese, and I bet I repeated that a million times. I am sure this behavior was annoying.

I’ve softened on cheese since then. I’m challenging my adult palate, as Tom Colicchio might say. A few days ago I visited a stinky cheese shop called Scardello’s. Along with a friend I took a class there called Cheese 101. We tasted 18 cheeses from soft, lemony chevre to stinky, blue stilton. I don’t think I’ll ever be a cheese lover, but I am no longer a hater, and I can appreciate a fine piece of fromage, as the French might say.

Class tidbits you may or may not already know about cheese:

  • Parmesan tastes like pineapple
  • Gouda tastes like caramel
  • Chevre tastes lemony
  • Cheddar isn’t really yellow, that’s just food coloring
  • Truly stinky cheese is “washed rind” cheese (I still say steer clear!)
  • Good blue Stilton tastes like bacon
  • To impress guests, serve Stilton paired with truffle honey

The next time my mom visits I plan to take her to this cheese shop.

Behold the Portable Kitchen

PK Grill, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

A few years ago my grandma gave me her old spaceship-like charcoal grill. It’s official brand name is the Portable Kitchen, and the cooking vessel is cast aluminum. People in-the-know call it the PK. Does it look familiar? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like a lot of people had these back in the day.

Recently I felt inspired to start using it. The grates inside had rusted quite a bit. I went online to find out how to get replacements. To my surprise, I discovered the PK continues to be a cult favorite. The old PK is back in production. Yes, you really can buy one of these new.

Apparently it’s popular because it’s easy to control the inside temperature using the grill’s four sliding air vents. It produces consistent low heat, low enough to smoke meat.

I’ve fired it up a few times recently. I highly recommend smoked beer can chicken.

For the truly curious, here is some history from the official PK site:

In the early 1950’s, the man known as the “Barbeque King” of Texas acted on his dream of making the perfect barbeque pit. Mr. Hilton Meigs, a Beaumont businessman, contractor and inventor, designed and manufactured the first Portable Kitchen® cast aluminum grill in 1952.

The immediate popularity of the grill inspired the Meigs family to move to larger operations in Tyler, Texas a year later. Using Tyler as their base of operations, Mr. Meigs and his son, Douglas, loaded as many grills as possible in their 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air (removing the back seat to accommodate more grills) and traveled all across the Lone Star State to pitch their cooker. Sales soon spread to retailers across the country and to several countries overseas. Operations were eventually moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.

Unfortunately, the advent of stamped metal charcoal grills and trendy gas grills in the 1980’s led to the early retirement of the Mr. Meigs’ heavy-duty cast aluminum cooker. Tired of rusted out, cheap charcoal grills and convinced that a propane flame could never produce the flavor of charcoal-fed hickory smoke, Paul and Sarah James retrieved one of Mr. Meigs’ Portable Kitchen® cookers at a garage sale.

The rest is history. Wholeheartedly believing that the Portable Kitchen® cast aluminum cooker is still the perfect charcoal grill and smoker, the James family has set out to reintroduce it to the market. Rekindle an old flame!