What to do with so many plants?

I have a thing for plants. This has led to me collecting many, many houseplants over the years. Since we’ve moved, the majority of them are happily hanging out on the back porch. They seem to really enjoy it back there, growing much larger leaves than they would inside. I have a number of pothos plants. I started with two and now have 7, not including ones I’ve given away. They are very easy to propagate, you just cut off a vine and stick it in water until roots grow and then plant it. When the vines get within chewing distance of our cats, I start to notice puncture marks in the leaves. I decided that a good way to keep the plants away from the cats would be to hang them up. Conveniently, I came across a tutorial on Pinterest from skinny laminx for making your own plant hangers out of rope, twine, string, etc.

I picked up some thin hemp rope at the craft store and followed the tutorial to create a hanger for one of my plants. I have plans to make more some time soon.

Close up view

 

Hanging next to a stone pillar on our porch

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Making furniture to hide those litter boxes

During the recent move to our new house, we struggled with where to put our cats’ litter boxes. At the old house we had three litter boxes for the three cats. We decided to try going down to two litter boxes in the new place. However, we weren’t excited about any potential litter box locations.

A few Google searches later and I knew there were a variety of furniture options I could purchase to hide litter boxes. I also knew that they were pricey, leading me to decide make my own. A few days of watching Craigslist and a trip to the Salvation Army later, I scored two solid wood furniture pieces that worked in our house and were big enough to conceal a litter box for about $90 total. I couldn’t even purchase an already made piece of furniture for twice that cost.  Once the furniture was home, we put in the litter boxes for a few weeks and left one of the cabinet doors open so that the cats would get used to the new digs. Probably only needed to do it for a few days, but we were still busy unpacking.

Furniture piece one: a cabinet that fit nicely by the front door and stairs.

After measuring where to put the cat sized hole –  few inches above the inside platform, centered, about 7 inches wide – I drew the lines for the hole, using a bucket to get the arch correct. I then covered the lines with masking tape and drew them again so that the wood would not splinter when we cut it.

My husband then took care of using the drill to start the hole and then the jigsaw to cut out the opening:

After finishing the whole, we removed the tape and sanded the edges.

As our cats don’t always hit their litter box target (weird, right?) We decided to line the inside of the furniture with heavy duty plastic drop cloth so that it can be cleaned / replaced as needed. I used a staple gun to hold the pieces in place. Update, 7/26/14: we’ve recently added pet pee pad lining behind the boxes in addition to the plastic for those times when the one cat misses the litter boxes. They do a pretty good job of absorbing liquid and locking in the odor.

As soon as we carried the cabinet inside and installed the clean litter box, our cat Carston make a beeline for the litter box. I couldn’t even get a photo first! It was good to know he wasn’t reluctant about trying it out. Here’s his exit:

The litter box inside, along with a litter mat to try to trap litter before the cats make it out the hole.

Now unsuspecting guests will never know what this piece of furniture is hiding by our front door. As a bonus, it’s an excellent place to store mail! Now I just need to repaint it once I settle on the colors for that part of the house and hang some art work above. Someday.

Furniture piece #2 is a rock solid low cabinet. It was obviously made by hand. It smelled strongly of patchouli when I got it home.

Following the same process, we cut a hole in the slide a few inches above the inner platform, lined it with plastic and swapped out the gold knobs for brushed nickel knobs left over from our bathroom renovation at the old house.

Here it is inside. It’s so roomy we could probably put two boxes inside.

It’s positioned just below the window that looks on to our back porch, a perfect kitty sitting spot. The exit faces our fireplace so it’s concealed from the rest of the living room. I plan to either strip and re-stain this cabinet darker or paint it to match our living room. I would like to get cushions to put on top so that it acts as a people sitting bench in addition to a kitty sitting bench. Again, someday.

Mojo and Carston say it’s perfect for gazing out the window:

The cats have been using their new litter box cabinets with the holes in the side for more than a week now. We’ve happily noticed a that these cabinets do a decent job of containing unpleasant odors and the cats are more than happy to use them. Hooray!

What kind of furniture finds have you repurposed for your pets?

Making a wine bottle chandelier

Ok, so I just made a small wine bottle hanging light fixture… not really a chandelier. It’s been a project in the making for quite some time and a great way to break, I mean upcycle, some wine bottles.

A preview of the finished product

 

First, I had to figure out how to cut the bottom off of wine bottles. The internet was ripe with methods that didn’t work. First I tried a crazy idea where you dip string in acetone, tie it around a bottle and catch it on fire.

Yeah, that didn’t work.

Next, I found a YouTube video that demonstrated how to use a makeshift jig to score bottles with a cheap glass scorer and then use the temperature difference between hot and cold water to crack the bottle. I was never able to get my jig to create a straight enough score so when the bottle did break, it just created a mess.

Oops

After multiple rounds of trying to improve my jig, I settled on purchasing this Generation Green Bottle Cutter. After setting it up I got to practicing. And practicing. Getting the bottles to actually crack was the hardest part. I found that heating the bottle in the oven to 225 and then dipping it in ice water just ended in spider cracks everywhere. However, dipping the water in hot and then cold water took many dips for the most part and the hot water cooled down very quickly. It was important to keep the hot water very hot which I ended up doing by microwaving the bowl of hot water every few minutes. Pouring boiling water from a teapot onto the score slowly for a few seconds sometimes worked as well.

Dipping the bottle in hot and cold water

When the score cracked, I could hear it and see the fact that the bottle was beginning to crack. It often took a number of additional temperature changes before the bottle would separate altogether. The Generation Green Bottle Cutter came with a tapping tool that could be used to separate the bottle along the score if it wouldn’t crack. I tried this a few times but never created a straight cut. Even when just using the water a straight cut was rare. I think I created a perfectly straight cut 2 or 3 times and unfortunately only once with the color of bottle I wanted to use. I finally got 3 bottles cut close to straight so that I could use them in my chandelier.

Once I had the cut bottles, it was time to create the light fixture. I picked up the following:

  • A swag kit that included a chain, hooks, wired plug and switch
  • 3 Candelabra sockets
  • Candelabra bulbs
  • Heat shrink tubes
  • Electrical crimp connectors
  • A piece of pine lumber

I then got my handy helper to cut the lumber into two 1 foot sections. One of the sections was split down the middle. We attached two hooks on either end of the wider piece, drilled 3 holes for wires and installed metal staples to use to fasten the wires. We then glued the two smaller pieces to the wider one in a U shape and I stained the wood.

The board before gluing on the sides

After the U was constructed and stained, It was time to insert the candelabra sockets in the bottles and start wiring them up to the plug. I used the crimp connectors to wire the three sockets in a parallel circuit.

Wiring the sockets through the wood holder

After the wiring was complete, I covered the connections with heat shrink wrap and electrical tape.  It was then time to hang the mini chandelier! After hanging it above a dresser, I found the best place to insert the switch that came with the swag kit.

No flash, shows the color of the bottles

Above the dresser

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Wine bottle lights – a gift for you, a gift for them

Wine bottle lights are a gift that can be given any time of year really. Especially if you want to give yourself the gift of drinking a few bottles of wine so that you have some nice looking bottles to start with.

I saw this idea in a number of places and can’t even really point to a source.

Supplies:

  • Empty wine bottle (colored ones are nicer than clear)
  • Indoor/outdoor christmas lights. I used a clear strand with 20 bulbs and a plug only on one end
  • Corded drill (cordless will run out of batteries)
  • 1/2″ Glass drill bit (like this one at home depot)
  • Wire and beads if you want to make a “necklace” for the bottle

Instructions:

  • Wear safety glasses and gloves while drilling through the bottles. None of mine broke during drilling, but make sure to be safe.
  • I used a piece of styrofoam to cradle the bottle while drilling it
  • Use the label to start the hole. If the bottle doesn’t have a label, put a piece of masking tape on the bottle.
  • Start drilling. The whole process takes 20 – 30 minutes. I would start and stop quite often because my hand got tired.
  • Drill until the drill bit fits through the hole
  • Soak the bottle in hot water with a bit of oxyclean until the label is easy to get off. A razor blade will help. I also used a brillo pad to take off the glue. After that was done, I used a bottle brush to clean out the glass dust left in the bottle.
  • Feed the lights one by one through the hole
  • Using some wire and vintage beads from Etsy I made a necklace for the bottle

I’d like to think I’ll make a whole army of these to decorate my yard, perhaps under the bottle tree but we’ll see how that goes. For now though, the bottles have been a hit with the recipients!

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OMG, I have a bottle tree!

So, I’ve seen strange items in front yards around town that are used to display empty glass bottles. I mean this is Austin after all.  Then, I went to the yard art show at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center and saw a bottle tree there.  It was AMAZING. I had to have one. In fact, I knew way back in August that I needed this for my front yard.

Needless to say, I didn’t really have the proper tools to execute such a large project on my own. Luckily for me, I know some people that do. Recently, my father-in-law toted down his welder and torch from Fort Worth so that we could make my bottle tree and I could have the most “Austin-y” yard on my street.

We made the tree out of rebar on Saturday, and even took a break to attend the Circle Brewing grand opening party.

We cut a thick piece of rebar in half to act as the main trunk and then cut the thin pieces of rebar to varying lengths to make the branches.  And of course by “we” I mean my father-in-law. He also heated up the rebar so that I could bend it and he welded all the pieces together.

Welding and torch setup:

Bending some branches on the tree:

Cutting branches in action:

A certain husband had to hold up the bottle tree for quite a while once it got unweildy:

The following day, they set the main trunk piece in some concrete in the front yard amongst our cedar trees:

After the concrete had some time to set, I added the bottles I’ve collected for it so far.

My bike basks in the shade of the bottle tree:

Try to ignore our messy garage in the background and what appears to be dead grass everywhere:

And finally, a close up:

Yep, it’s awesome. I’ve got room to grow as I get more bottles.

A HUGE thanks to my father-in-law and husband for humoring me and creating a bottle tree for me!

Also, spoiling cats

Along the lines of my post yesterday about spoiling my dog, I thought I’d share how we spoil our cats.

Recently we renovated our living and dining rooms. In the process we’ve replaced some of our furniture. And now this is what the cats have:

How did we get to this point?

We had a stand-alone cat perch that Mojo loved to play one. It was leopard print colored and didn’t really match the new improved decor.

My husband suggested that we make cat shelves up the wall. Being the sucker I am (and recognizing the chance to get rid of the leopard print) I agreed! And then here’s what you do:

  • Buy some sturdy shelves and brackets at Ikea
  • Cut them to size for cats
  • Wrap a long 1” x 4” board with sisal rope (they love scratching sisal rope!)
  • Attach all to wall at reasonable intervals, all the way up to the vaulted ceiling
  • Sew not one but two cat beds and velcro them to the shelves
  • Feel great satisfaction when you find cats sleeping up there. Ok, so really only Mojo goes up unprompted but if you lure Carston up he’ll lay there. Annie doesn’t go up at all. I blame her lack of claws.