Fix-it

If there is someone living in your house who has long hair (you, perhaps?) it’s just a matter of time until you get a clogged drain in your shower or tub. It’s the kind of problem that develops slowly until one day you rinse out your shampoo and realize the water is covering your ankles. Not good. Your first reaction might be to bug your husband to fix it or to grab a bottle of Drano. Stop!  This is a really easy problem to fix that you can do all by yourself with no nasty chemicals. Since it’s How-To Tuesday I’ll show you how! This whole job takes less than ten minutes.

There is really only one tool you need to fix this: an auger. It’s sometimes called a plumber’s snake. Basically it’s a long, flexible metal tube with a corkscrew-type thing on the end. It attaches to a plastic handle. The idea behind an auger is that you feed the metal hose into a pipe and twist it around a whole bunch. It will screw into the hair/lint/banana peel that is clogging your pipe and it can be pulled right out. Most of the time it works flawlessly. Anybody who has indoor plumbing needs an auger. They can unplug showers, toilets and even dryer ducts inside the wall (remind me to tell you sometime about the glob of lint as big as my head that we got out of the dryer vent!) Augers are cheap and I’d recommend buying one that’s at least 15′.

Any time you’re dealing with bthroom stuff you should wear rubber gloves. The stuff that comes out of the pipes is nasty! (I wasn’t wearing gloves to feed the auger down the drain but I was absolutely wearing them when I pulled it out!)

There are several different types of stoppers at the bottom of your tub. I’m not going to go into how they’re removed because it’s usually not necessary.  Just lift the stopper high enough to feed the auger down the drain. It might need a little help getting in. I had to jiggle and force mine past the stopper.

 

Feed the auger down until it stops. It usually won’t be too far. Then you’ll tighten the screw that holds the auger in place.

 

Hold on to the auger and twirl the handle so it screws the end into the glob of yuck down in the drain.

 

Now you’ll pull the auger out. It may take some tugging, especially if the clog is big. But if you got the auger in, you can get it out. And when it comes out it should be pulling something incredibly disgusting with it. Ewwww!

Put the clog in an old plastic grocery bag after you dry heave a few times. Then throw it away. Far away. Turn on the faucet and see how the water is draining. Does it go down a lot better? If it still seems slow, you can repeat the process again.

Pat yourself on the back. Wasn’t that easy?

Welcome to my first video how-to! (Do I have to tell you how much I hate my voice?) This is a tutorial on one of the most common problems in everybody’s house: a leaky toilet that’s constantly running. This is such a super easy problem to fix. Anybody can do it!

My MacBook Air is pretty much my best friend. We spend a lot of time together, even when he quit speaking to me a few weeks ago. After reinstalling software, zapping the PRAM and all sorts of miscellaneous tasks, my speakers and headphone jack refused to turn on. The mute button on my computer was grayed out and simply wouldn’t work.

So I combed the internet for answers; always a daunting task. Mostly it was a bunch of people complaining about the same problem and no solutions. Finally I found a guy in Siberia (no joke) who said the sound cable in the MacBook Air is notorious for being rotten. And I could either pay $200 to get it fixed or try to do it myself.

I do not have $200 laying around, so I uttered the dreaded phrase: “how hard could it be?”  I always pick the DIY option even when it’s foolish. It’s in my DNA. Although let’s face it, there is a lot more that can go wrong with fixing a computer than hanging a towel rack.

I found a great online site called ifixit that provides not only computer parts, but marvelous tutorials on how to replace each part that you buy. They also have a huge Q&A forum of various computer problems and how people have fixed them. According to the website, replacing an audio cable is not all that hard. I was a little skeptical since I’m so feeble at computery things that I can’t even get the printer to work half the time.

But I payed $30 for a new audio cable and a spudger (a weird little plastic tool that is incredibly handy when fixing computers) and had them in my nervous little paws within three days.

Mister is getting up there in years so his eyesight is currently in need of bifocals.  Which he doesn’t have. He also doesn’t have dainty little fingers that are just wonderful at getting into little nooks and crannies. So I was left to do the repair myself. I made sure to do it when he wouldn’t be around to breathe over my shoulder and act all expert-y.

Opening up a computer is one of the most daunting things I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine being more stressed if it had been a human being lying on the table in front of me.  There are so many scary little wires and pieces and . . .  stuff! How computers were ever invented, I’ll never know. There was a horrifying moment when I realized one of the teensy, tiny screws was already stripped (thanks Apple repair guys!) but I said a prayer (not kidding) and managed to get it out. Phew!
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The instruction photos from ifixit were huge and detailed and the entire repair took about 45 minutes. Not including the time it took to find a brighter lamp, dust all the crumbs out of my laptop innards (!) and yell at my kids three times to leave me alone. But the important thing to know is that IT WORKED!  I did it! I fixed my computer!!! I laid its guts out all over my desk, fixed it and put it all back together.

Ifixit is my hero. Next time your computer/ipad/iphone has an ailment, I’d recommend checking the site out (only if your item is out of warrantee, though. If you can get it fixed for free, then do it!). And no, I didn’t get paid a single penny for this. I’m just so thrilled at the idea of fixing my own computers that I wanted to share.

If you have children you probably have quite a collection of DVDs. If you children are old enough to work the DVD player, they probably take them out and leave them lying all over the floor. That’s not just my kids, right?

Perhaps one of our DVDs will make it out to the car and somehow end up with juice spilled all over it, wedged between the seats. That’s just a hypothetical. Things like that never happen for real around here. Never.

OK, fine. It’s a sad life to be a DVD at our house.

That’s where Fast Disc Repair comes in. It’s a great company that can repair just about any DVD, CD or video game. This isn’t just cleaning a DVD (did you know that saliva is the best cleaner there is? Try making your kids lick their dirty DVDs and see how they freak out!). This is actual resurfacing. Unless the disc is actually cracked, it can probably be fixed. And if it’s not fixable, they won’t charge you. How great is that?!

Here’s how it works: you pop your disks in a padded envelope and send them off, and they’ll be fixed and mailed right back to you in New York or Timbuktu or wherever you live. Or if you’re in the Austin area, you can drop by the business in Cedar Park (right across from City Hall). All for $7 a piece! Think about the alternative: tossing your badly scratched discs in the garbage and having to buy new ones. If you’ve paid $50 for a game, your only other choice is to throw it away, and that is just painful. It makes economical sense as well as environmental sense–keep all those messed-up discs out of the landfills!

I can’t rave about this enough. We have so many movies that we haven’t watched for years, simply because they skip really badly or freeze up. Now they’re good as new. Fast Disc Repair even fixed the dreaded circular scratch on one of my friends XBox games.

The nice Fast Disc people are allowing me to do a giveaway of their services. Leave me a comment by Wednesday 7/27 at 10 pm (central time) and I’ll choose a winner to receive free repair for four discs (CDs, DVDs or games). You can enter no matter where you live. Even on the other side of the Earth. Just get your discs to Texas and they’ll take care of the rest.

You can get more info here. And no, they are not paying me for this. I just love it so much.

605 N Bell Blvd.

Suite 103

Cedar Park, TX 78613

512 633-9195


I have decided that this week shall be Hobby Week here at Beehive and Birdsnest. I like to collect hobbies which isn’t surprising considering I was born to two people who always had some “thing” that they were into. My dad leaned toward things that go. He was on the pit crew for a few race car teams and then fell madly in love with sailboating. My mother liked to do practical things: make shoes (which she learned from the monks at the monestery down the road from us), weld, make jewelry (we’re talking lost wax and pouring molten metal; not stringing beads). She also happens to be a very good artist as well.

When I was five my parents built a house. Quite literally. They hired a crew to pour a foundation and build a frame. Then Mom and Dad did everything else. Themselves. They ran the wiring, plumbing and ductwork, framed the walls, built every cabinet from scratch and hung the doors and windows. It turned out pretty darn nice.

Our unofficial family motto is We Learn How To Do Things.

I inherited my parent’s practical practical streak. But I also have a love for pretty things. My mother leans heavily on duct tape and making things work. The way they look doesn’t really matter that much. But if I’m going to do something it had better be beautiful or what’s the point?

I started sewing early on. I was always picky (and poor) so the only way to get the really cute clothes I wanted was to make them myself. Fortunately my mother is a crackerjack seamstress. She can create anything you show her. She taught me well and the rest I picked up through the years.

Sewing is such a great skill to have. It can save so much money. For example, I decided that I need a bag of a certain size. It needed to have a top that shut somehow and it needed to be cute. I searched Etsy and couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. So instead I bought a pattern on Etsy (from EmiShimosato), changed a few things and made the bag myself out of fabric I already had on hand. It wasn’t hard and took maybe two hours from start to finish. That’s the thing about sewing. Depending on the pattern, it’s not too difficult. It’s more like learning a new operating system on your computer or doing very strange origami. Once you’ve done a few projects it starts making sense and getting much easier.

For example, who would guess that this bizarre inside-out ring:
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Would ten minutes later look like this? Just what I wanted!
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I’ll bet that there are some excellent sewing tutorials on You Tube. I’ve had great luck buying patterns on etsy. The directions are really well explained and there are usually tons of pictures too. These are great especially if you’ve been burned in the past by trying to make something from one of the big name pattern companies (those are sooo hard to figure out, even for people with lots of experience.) I haven’t tried every pattern on Etsy, obviously, but the ones I have tried have been so nice to work with and incredibly easy to uderstand. Add to that the fact that the patterns are almost always downloadable immediately (yay instant gratification!) and the designer can usually be emailed if you have a question.

If you’ve tried sewing in the past and have been scared off, let the internet help you out. There are online tutorials and lots of people who are willing to help you.

Honestly I’m not in love with sewing. I’m not passionate about it. The whole time I’m sewing I’m just waiting, waiting to get the finished product. Very few things are as gratifying, though, as sewing. It’s such a money-saver (although most kids clothes can definitely be bought cheaper!) If you need curtains for your house sewing can save you a ton.

All in all this is one hobby that, while not the funnest thing ever (them’s fighting words to a quilter!), should be taught to everyone. It’s just so darn useful!

Are you a sewer? If not, why? Have you ever taken lessons or anything like that?

Stay tuned for more hobbies all week long.
R.I.P ugly cheap faucet.

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This statuesque beauty has taken your place:

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Climbing around under the sink is hard on your back.  Not to mention a little oogie and claustrophobic.  But it’s ever so worth it.  Especially since the plumber who came to fix our water heater told me he charges $290 to install a kitchen faucet.  (I also saved money by getting this faucet on ebay.  75% off the retail price!)
Moving on from the faucet to the drab walls.  
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Aaah, color.  That’s better.
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Great. Now the beige tile looks even more hideous. 

I must utter the phrase, “how hard can it be?” at least once every week or two; every time I think of something that I want to create or copy from someone or fix around my house. I wouldn’t consider myself cheap. Sadly, not at all. But I only like to buy something if it’s a good value. I do so love to get something for a great price. If I were actually frugal, however, I wouldn’t buy anything at all.

Instead I learn to find bargains (usually on the net) and do things myself. Because how hard could it be to install new light fixtures and faucets and make aprons and dresses and fix vacuums and disposals? Not to be judgemental or anything, but I haven’t been impressed with the brain power of a lot of fix-it guys. Not that they aren’t smart, but I certainly am as smart as they are.

Which leads me to my current round of How Hard Can it Be To Change My Kitchen Faucet? I have done this twice before in different houses (not to mention several bathroom faucets). Only once I really started thinking about it, I have only installed one in the kitchen. The other one I just handed my brother the parts and he did all the dirty work. Let me just boil it all down to this: kitchen faucets are a pain to install. 

It’s hard to believe I lived with this sad specimen of faucetry for two and a half years. I mean, what girl doesn’t dream of a super deluxe faucet like this (including the wonky sprayer that isn’t even attached to the countertop)?

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The real challenge with plumbing is my lack of musculature. In other words I am too wimpy to tighten all the hoses and pipes properly. I have a big bucket under the sink that everything drips into (even though I swear the water supply is turned off. I swear! It just won’t stop dripping! I’m starting to feel like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.) I’m waiting for Mister to take pity on me and tighten everything up. In the meantime I am living without a functioning faucet. It’s been more than two days now and I’m getting tired of rinsing things out in the bathtub (the bathroom sinks aren’t very deep, it turns out).

I did manage to get things worked out enough to run the dishwasher last night.  I have to draw the line at washing dishes in the bathroom.  That’s just too weird and gross for me.

Remember this heinous old thing?

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I bought it at Wimberley Market Days which is a really cute flea market held once a month in the darling town of Wimberly, Texas.  I went with Lorie from Be Different, Act Normal.  It’s not the kind of flea market that sells Sham-Wows and huge bags of no-name tube socks. No, this is the cute kind that sells vintage goods and crafts and lots of Texas-themed things (it happens to be the second biggest flea market in Texas after Canton Trade Days, outside of Dallas).  

We went early (well, early for shopping.  We got there at 8 am).  Luckily I scored this dresser early on.  It was in great condition (except for the chippy silvery green spray paint) and the price was $150 which is super for a nice big dresser.  I, of course, had to bargain my way down to $125 and was pretty pleased with my find since Ada needs a dresser in the worst way (She’s still using her changing table!)  I paid for it and told the guy I’d be back to pick it up when I was ready to leave.  By the time we got back the guy was a little ticked off. “I could have sold this thing ten time over!” he announced.  Ah well, now you know not to price a cute dresser so cheap! You can’t tell, but I’m sitting on the back of a teensy, tiny truck in this picture and my job was to keep the dresser from falling off (!!!).  It seemed more like a golf cart, but it got the huge dresser out to my car and Lorie and I didn’t have to lift a finger (except to rearrange everything in my car since I wasn’t exactly planning on such a huge purchase).

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I considered my finishing options but because the paint was pretty chippy I decided to strip it and refinish it. Gah, what a ginormous pain!  Note to self: just patch up the chipped spots and paint over the whole thing.  A lot of bloggers recommend spray paint when redoing furniture.  I guess because it’s easier and gives a smooth finish.  I opted to go the oil-based enamel route since this thing is going to take a beating, being in a kids’ bedroom. I did use a light coating of spray-on primer, though. (If you’re going to distress something, you don’t want to use a primer; when you sand off the paint you won’t see wood you’ll see primer.  But the distressed look isn’t my fave, so I used primer and sanded it afterwards with 320 grit sandpaper so the paint would go on super smoothly.)

The nice thing about oil-based enamel is that it takes a long time to dry, so the paint brush marks smooth out and fade away, especially if you do it in your garage on a rainy day like I did.  If you are wanting to paint something in the morning and have it in use by dinner-time, then this wouldn’t be a great option for you.  But I knew I wanted something durable, and enamel (not paint, enamel. Even though paint is often times labelled as enamel.  You want the stuff that’s meant for trim) is the hardest stuff there is.   Enamel can also be custom-colored unlike spray-paint.

I got mine at Sherwin Williams and followed Sarah’s tutorial here (just a note, though.  The enamel she used is for dark colors only.  If you want a paler color you’ll need to get the ProClassic Alkyd Enamel (Alkyd means oil-based).  I like satin the best; it’s just lovely.

Also, you can’t use a paintbrush for oil paint that you’ve used for latex. You’ll have to get a new one (and you’d better get a nice one! It makes a huge difference!). Oil paint has to be rinsed out in mineral spirits. Just pour some in a cup and swizzle the paintbrush, then dump it out (I dumped mine out in a bunch of weeds in the corner of my yard. Toxic material disposal plus weed killer all at once!) You’ll have to repeat it a couple of times, then rinse the brush under warm water. It sounds like a pain but it’s actually easier than rinsing your brush out for fifteen minutes like you have to do with latex.

Here’s my finished dresser, which took me a lightning quick two-weeks from the time of purchase to the time of finishing (it seriously is my record.  Remember I’m the person who has been trying to get around to wallpapering for two years.)  It took me another two weeks to get it up to Ada’s room and I have yet to put any accessories on it or put clothes inside, but it’s where it belongs and that’s pretty darn good for me.

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SETTING: Jennie’s house, three of the four bathrooms.

ISSUE: leaky toilets.

How can I have three leaky, constantly running toilets all at once? I learned many years ago that leaky toilets usually mean one thing: they need a new flapper. Installing the flapper is easy as can be, but then proper flushing has to reestablished and that can be tricky. Good thing I have honed my sharp plumbing skills. The nice thing about plumbing is that everything is rather straightforward. Unlike, say, anything having to do with appliances where even the most simple gadget has a computer inside. A toilet is so basic that even I understand how it works.

Or take the shower: Every year or so the shower starts backing up. In our master bathroom it’s much more often that that for reason I will explain shortly. If you have a clogged pipe and you’re a dummy, you use some drain cleaner. That just makes everything nasty. Don’t do it! Drain cleaner is no substitute for elbow grease and a bent hanger. I choose to forego the cleaner and remove the drain cover (in my current shower that means simply lifting it up. For some reason it was never screwed down. Which makes it a handy place to toss unwanted legos, toy animals and other plastic flotsam that the kids have gotten tired of playing with while they get clean. Hence the need to clean the drain often.) A wire hanger stretched out as long as it will go is your best bet for removing the offending clog. If you have never done this it’s disgusting and smelly but also rewarding (much like cleaning the wax out of dirty ears). Most clogs consist of hair. Lots and lots of mildewy hair. In our case there are a few toys and ponytail holders tangled in the glob. Vile.

If you and your husband both have short hair and your shower isn’t the most popular one in the house than you probably don’t have this problem. But sadly it’s my lot in life to be the solver of all problems plumbing-related. Which is only fair, I guess, since it’s mostly my longish hair that’s down there.

As fond as fond as I am of going to the bathroom, though, I had nothing to do with all the leaky flappers.

I did a massive deep-cleaning of the refrigerator last night. Every surface was scrubbed with hot water and copious amounts of elbow grease. Consequently the temperature alarm started to beep, letting me know that I was letting out quite a bit of cold.

Unfortunately the beeping never stopped. Not after I placed a huge bag of ice in the fridge to help cool things down quickly. Two hours later the beeping was still going and the little computer thermostat was unresponsive. I’ve already had to replace that electronic part once (the fridge is only 14 months old! Stupid Maytag! Where’s Gordon Jump when I need him?)

I found a handy website with online repairmen at about 11:30 last night. The guy told me I needed to unplug the two computer boards from each other. He included a diagram of how to do just that.

So now I’m waiting the five minutes until I can plug the pieces back together. I’m hopeful. Yet also doubtful because I already had to replace that same computer thingy once already.


Let me go put the fridge back together. Please wait . . . .

It worked!!! The mad beeping has stopped!

OK, so if you have any appliance repair problems I highly recommend http://www.justanswer.com. It’s not free, but they let you pay what you feel the service is worth (the minimum is $9). A lot better than having a sullen repairman who stinks of cigarettes come to your house and charge you $80 to do the exact same thing. And you can get help 24/7.

Another reason why I looove the internet.

Oh, and on an unrelated note, here’s India hanging up pictures in her newly painted room.  She picked it all out herself.  She may not be girly, but she did inherit my love of pattern; hence the polka dots. (Which I painted free-hand, thankyouverymuch.)