Category Archives: home improvement

Fix It Yourself Project 2 – Backpack

Six years ago I bought myself a very nice new backpack. I expected it would last forever. What could possible go wrong?

Only this one thing: the crown of the zipper pull. This is pretty much the only thing that could break and be impossible to fix.

Or is it?

If you ever have time to kill and are seeking new knowledge, I very highly recommend YouTube and zipper fixing videos. What a rabbit hole.

Step one was to order some zipper pulls and supporting supplies like sturdy thread and a nuclear strength needle for the canvas.

Step two was another zipper pulls order since I bought the wrong size. I now have about 30 zipper pulls. Is there a place to donate them? Is this like all the weird hardware that a household collects over the years where you just keep it in a box and don’t know what to do with it? If you need black backpack zipper pulls in #6, #8 or #10, please contact me.

I watched a number of videos and had two possible strategies that I thought would be pretty hairy but that I could accomplish.

Spoiler alert: I did not fix it.

I bravely cut a few threads trying to get to the zipper but the backpack is so well made it was really tough. Also, I determined that I really couldn’t do either strategy without either (1) turning the backpack inside out – and it’s too sturdy for that, or (2) just completely deconstructing the bag and hoping for the best which seemed like a recipe for a long afternoon(s) of swearing and regret.

I opted for (3) just living with it as it is. It’s not that tough to deal with.

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Fix It Yourself Project 1: Zafu

I have had this cushion forever. I want to say since at least 2002 because I have a vague memory of watching a World Cup match taking place in S. Korea while sitting on it and wearing a tiara.

Meanwhile, it flattened out to the point where it was almost worthless.

This project has been on my list for years — one of those, “I should figure out how to puff up my zafu, how hard can it be?” but it never rose to the top of the pile.

Last year I finally did some research and ordered new buckwheat hulls from giant online retailer. This was going to be one of my holiday break projects except then dear ol’ Dad had a huge health crisis and he was my holiday break project.

This year was the year and I began by searching “fix and clean your zafu tips” and the first site I found told me to use the zipper to remove the inner pouch.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. If I had a zipper and an inner pouch, I wouldn’t be here searching for help, would I?

I cut the seam, emptied the zafu and HOLY BUTTERBEANS. Look at how much came out. The zafu is like the Tardis, bigger on the inside than the outside.

Look at the replacement hulls I bought. Is that going to fill my zafu?

I briefly hesitated but went ahead and threw the empty zafu in the laundry. It occurred to me that it could disintegrate and then I’d have to buy a new zafu.

But it came out fine.

I filled it with all the new buckwheat hulls and of course it wasn’t full. I did not want to order more new buckwheat hulls — I’d set aside the time for the project. The project was getting done.

I then finished filling it with the old buckwheat hulls. I stitched it up — not pretty but holds the buckwheat hulls in.

And, success!

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Closet Flipping Season

I bought some of those vacuum storage bags. You know when you buy something expecting it to change your life but it turns out disappointing in execution?

These are giant zipper lock bags where you vacuum out all the air and it makes more space.

I had envisioned easily-managed stackable containers of my winter clothes and sheets but instead they look like these blobs that don’t fit together. They are also heavier than you’d think.

I’m sure there’s a youtube video with tips by someone named Tammy that would help me out but I have a lot of chores to do and need to get this particular thing done and don’t want to get dragged some rabbit hole of oversold storage improvement tips.

I did get everything in the closet but I’m pretty sure this is the same stuff I’ve crammed in without.

I have to label it because by fall I will forget which sheets go with what and where the pillow cases are.

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These are blown out tulips from spring. They’re still pretty even when they’re almost done.

Why is it so hard to get rid of stuff?

I’m not a pack rat and I love to get rid of things yet I can’t seem to declutter like I want to.

We did a little project cleaning out the linens that were stashed all over the house and when we were done it was like a half-drawer of stuff to get rid of.

And later we went through a few things in the garage and it was the same thing, like a grocery bag.

We did get rid of some ancient camping gear so a cubby hole in the basement that no one would ever look at is now almost empty.

I look around at my stuff and try to honestly evaluate whether I’m ever going to look at it or use it again and most of the time I’m convinced that I will.

Or else the thing was a gift and I feel bad getting rid of it.

Ugh, but also I feel smushed by having so much stuff. I’m going to keep chipping away at it.

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Vacuum Cleaner Bag of the Damned

I was forced to buy a new vacuum cleaner last year when my old vacuum cleaner died and the dead part couldn’t be replaced. I can’t remember the exact details or even if it was really last year.

I bought a more expensive vacuum from our local vacuum cleaner shop thinking that if I have problems, I have a handy place to get repairs.

I had noticed it didn’t seem to suck like it used to but my old vacuum cleaner made a discouraged beep and popped open when the vacuum cleaner bag was full so I was waiting for that cue.

I finally opened the canister to check and holy thundercakes — the bag was so big, I wasn’t sure if I could even get it out. I had to wrestle out the filter first and then yank it out.

Lesson learned to check the vacuum cleaner bag much earlier next time.

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Something New

We are not big on home improvement.

It’s not that I don’t like things to look nice but if I have some extra time and energy, the house interior is not even in the top 50 things I want to deal with. I’d rather endure home decor I don’t like than make a big effort for something new.

This is how we have ended up with the hideous great grandma’s living room window treatment since we moved into this house over 20 years ago.

I know. It’s hard to believe.

I have hated it for some time and had it on the long list of things I wanted to tackle.

What finally motivated me is that those slats began actively disintegrating. I grabbed them once to snoop out the window and they ripped. We had to duct tape one to hold it together. I wish I was kidding.

I was under the impression that having such a big window would complicate things and I didn’t want to pay a bunch for a specialty blind and take a chance that it didn’t fit. But I also couldn’t deal with the idea of hiring someone to come and measure and advise, etc.

I started doing some physical therapy stuff with Melonie in her new space and she has a giant window with cordless blinds like this and after asking a few questions, I hopped online, read the directions, measured, and ordered our new blind.

We did need a little help with the installation but it is like a MIRACLE in the living room now.

The only bummer is the wall where the curtain rods came out is all messed up. I’m not up for massive painting project and I’m not sure patching it is going to look so hot either.

Also, I’m considering putting some curtains up for when it’s super bright or super cold and we want an extra layer.

Check back in another 20 years!

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Pam Advisory Notice No. 77

This is a Breuer chair.

You might think this chair looks nice and not the kind of chair that can ruin a person’s day. Do not be fooled. If you have the choice between fixing a Breuer chair and buying new chairs, buy new. If your husband indicates distress over buying chairs over the Internet, even after you point out that the two of you are the worst shoppers ever, always pick the first marginally decent thing you see and you might as well just buy damn Internet chairs to solve your problem, just kindly listen and then buy the online chairs. He’ll forgive you.

Breuer chairs came into my life in the late 70’s. You can see proof here. I still have that Breuer chair. Many years later, in the late 80’s my Dad made me a kitchen table and gave it to me with 4 Breuer chairs. I still have those, too.

The cane gets stretched out and holes in it. I had a local guy fix a bunch for me once.

But the last time I needed help with my chairs, which was OVER FIVE YEARS AGO, I phoned him a couple of times and never heard back. This is the kind of project that I only looked at once every few months. Like maybe company was coming and I thought: extra chairs would be handy, so I’d make the call.

I eventually gave up on my guy and looked for another guy. I finally found a place and I thought I wrote about it here but apparently I wrote about it on Facebook.

In brief, I found a place in an inconvenient location and I made the time to go out there and carried my broken chair parts in and they were patronizing and rather than just saying, this is such a pain in the ass we don’t want to do it, they quoted me a ridiculous price while all looking down their noses at each other. When I said, thanks, but I’d rather buy new chairs, they said: Well don’t buy chairs like these.

If you know me, you can imagine how I took that. I stomped out of there determined to show them.

Using new information, I FINALLY got around to ordering replacement parts that arrived this week. You can buy replacement chair bottoms and chair backs for probably too much online. My parts arrived and this afternoon I fixed my chairs.

First of all, I totally violated the Uncle Joey rule about never letting an inanimate object kick your ass.

I could not get my screws to go in so I looked it up online and saw a demo, from the company I bought my chair stuff from, and they’re like, “Keep the screws you already used. Our parts are pre-drilled.” Well, I had the screws that I already used because I am my father’s daughter. But they are like 10 feet long and I couldn’t get them to fit. And “pre-drilled” my ass, they were like “pre-dimpled.”

Also I had to replace the chair back which is not pre-dimpled. They said either measure from the old chair back that you’re throwing away (too late!) or do whatever you want.

What?!?!?! He’p!

It took probably 3 times as long as it should have and I said a lot of bad words plus ruined the chairs’ self-esteem by telling them how much I hated them but in the end, we have fixed chairs (I was very creative with my screws) and I can cross something off my list that has been there for more than 5 years.

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The Door Knob Fixer

I thought I had an ongoing tale about the door knob but I can’t find it using search. Oh well, it’s so interesting I’m sure you won’t mind hearing it again.

Our front door knob started disintegrating awhile back and co-worker said door knobs are super easy to do yourself so I decided to try.

I stopped by the lock shop to ask a few questions and the nice man told me to bring it in. I figured out how to take it off and I put all the pieces in a box and drove back to the lock shop.

The nice man said I could probably get by without a whole new door knob and he sold me a widget. (Latch? Hasp? Shackle?) I went home installed the widget and put the door knob back on and couldn’t get the door to close.

These all sound like simple steps when I write it this way but they actually involved having to look for tools and wrestle to make the tools work and get the screws in the right way. Plus I had other things I wanted to do with my day besides drive back and forth with a shoe box filled with door knob parts.

I called the nice man and begged him to come down and fix it. At that point I would rather have paid money than deal with it one more second. He said it sounded like I had the bevel hackle knuckle upside down and to just turn it around. So I took it all apart again and spring bolted the tumbler around and he was right it worked!

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and the door knob disintegrated again. My husband, who is a prince but is perfectly happy to leave problems like this to deal with later if there is an acceptable alternative, thought we should just not use the front door until we got around to dealing with it. I did not find that an acceptable alternative. However, I also didn’t want to be in charge of calling the locksmith since I had already handled round one of this problem.

Then, during one long night of insomnia I remembered that we have the same door knob on the door between the garage and the shop — a door that we never lock. When I had time I swapped the doorknobs. Genius.

Except that didn’t work either because the widget part was still stuck — where this entire problem started — so one more time I had to go back, take both door knobs off, swap the widgets putting the new widget back on the front door and putting the craptastic old widget in the garage.

In sum, front door locks again and I know how to deal with basic door knob repair.

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The Shower Door Disaster of 2013

Two weeks ago I was wiping down the shower doors and they got gummed up so they wouldn’t slide on the track. In the process of trying to fix this, I knocked one of the doors completely off the track.

I very quickly learned that these shower doors are made of actual glass and weigh a million pounds. There was a split second where I was certain I would win a Darwin Award for bleeding to death in my own bathtub after cutting off my foot with a shower door — all because of cleaning.

I was able to control it enough to not hurt myself and screamed my head off and my husband ran in and lifted the thing off me. There was a handful of glass shards in the bottom of the tub and the door was chipped in one corner.

Once I got over the thrill of not being hurt, we had two problems. (1) The broken shower door and (2) the giant gouge in the tub. Also keep in mind that we aren’t even finished paying for this bathroom yet.

As is well documented here, I’m not good at household things and don’t want to invest any time getting better at it. I wasn’t even sure where to start. The people that remodeled the bathroom retired about 5 minutes after they cashed our final payment so that wasn’t an option. I went through the file and wrote down what I thought were relevant notes and I took a few photos of the shower door and went out for round 1.

First, I went to a local glass shop because they’ve replaced a couple of windshields for us and were always nice and I figured if they couldn’t help us they could at least point us in the right direction. I was wrong. It would be too long and boring to tell you the whole conversation but you can get the idea from this: after I explained what happened the guy said, “What do you want me to do about it?” He also told me that usually if tempered glass gets hit hard enough to chip, it shatters.

Eventually he was able to point to something in my notes that is apparently the manufacturer so I went online and found the local rep for that and phoned and the line was disconnected.

Meanwhile, my husband received my unhappy texts during this adventure. He saw a glass place when he was out and about and ran in there and they were super nice and helpful. They knew the company that did our remodel. They knew the manufacturer. Someone came by to look at the damage. He told us that he’d never seen a door chip like that and not shatter.

Why is this used to make shower doors?

He said he’d put together an estimate for us. I don’t know what this is going to cost us but I am hopeful that I will soon have a brand new, million pound, shatterable shower door.

For the gouge in the bathtub, I spent a goodly amount of time reading disheartening things online about gouged bathtubs.

After what I deemed enough responsible research, I found a do-it-yourself kit that looked promising but asked me 100 questions about my tub. Did you know that some of the color choices are: Artic, Snow, Cloud, Linen and Béchamel? (Barely exaggerating). White, I kept insisting. Then there was something about how to tell what kind of tub you have and you sand the gouge and then smell it. My bathtub smelled like my shampoo which was not one of the choices.

I made my best guesses and went through the order screens. When I got to the end, the shipping and handling charges added another 50% to the cost. So I said, Screw you. I’m not doing that. What the hell are “handling” charges? It’s like when you buy tickets and they charge you a $5 convenience charge to print them yourself. If they were shipping me an alligator I could see charging me a fee. But not for sticking some painty stuff and sandpaper into an envelope.

I did some more research and found the company that made my tub and they had a number to call. I got that lady on the phone and we had to go through the same questions about what color my tub is and what it’s made out of and what product line it is, because that’s something a person should keep track of. And we get to the end of that round and then she said it was out of stock.

She said they buy it from someone else and gave me that number and that’s when I talked to St. Nancy of New Jersey.

St. Nancy was super friendly and helpful and explained to me how she used the product on her sink.

“Are you handy or can anyone do this?” I asked.

“My husband says I have 4 thumbs,” St. Nancy said. “But I think I’m handy.”

My fix-it kit arrived the next day. At first I rigorously followed the directions but the filler stuff just shrunk and brushed out of the dent. So I gave up on the filler and tried to make light coats of the chip filler. That wasn’t looking so hot either. The directions said, “Whatever you do, don’t just glop it on.” But when I glopped it on the gouge was covered.

Not pretty but if it works, good enough for me.

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Whiter Shade of Pale

Sadly I don’t have a before photo of this. I wish I did because this looks so much nicer.

This is the rest of the shop clean-up project I started in the summer.

There was a crappy built in cupboard that we didn’t use because it was dusty and had spiders in it. I tore that out and I had someone come in and put in that light fixture and fix the wiring because it was weird. That project together with the cupboard destruction made a bunch of holes in the wall.

I patched everything up and painted it and it’s finally done. I keep going out there and admiring it because it looks so nice.

Today we went to the mall and bought a new refrigerator which will be delivered in a week. Then the old fridge goes in that corner.

In another 6 months there will be spider webs and dust but right now it’s beautiful.

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