My Done-In-A-Day Square Foot Garden

My mother has the greenest thumb, ever. I grew up with trees in our house. Like, actual trees, in huge pots that typically only grow in the subtropics, where my mom grew up. And yet she kept them thriving in New Jersey for over thirty years. We had beautiful gardens in the spring and summer including a super productive square foot garden. I’ve thought that I inherited that gardening gift, but the verdict is still out on that one.

IMG_2094None the less, I wanted to do something with my gardens this year. I had been mulling over where and how to build a square foot garden in our yard for a while. I wanted a raised four by four bed and was planning on modifying Rogue Engineer’s plans (once again). And on the first Sunday in June, I decided to make it happen. Drinking my morning coffee, I sketched out the bed I wanted and how to make it work.

I ran into some minor bumps due to the fact that I could not find any 4x6s that were sold untreated. Although I am sure pressure treated wood won’t kill you if you grow herbs and veggies out of it, I wanted it untreated. All the lumber places close to my house were closed on Sunday. Major bummer.   Not wasting too much time, I figured that stacking three 4x4s would accomplish the same thing. I still can’t even believe that I sketched and bought the wood the same day I was planning on building this thing.

I had cut down and dug out a tree that had died. Then I cut up the grass and used the sod for an area of the yard that needed it. I screwed two of the 4x4s together, countersinking the screws, and only screwing through one of the 4x4s so that the other one could be the top piece. Then I screwed on the third board on. I actually attached two of the corner posts to the first side piece before I kept assembling. These things were heavy!! I had to ask my husband for help on and off throughout the day. (He loves it when I spontaneously start a project I need his assistance on.) As we assembled the garden frame, I dug the ground out a little more, where needed, and to make sure things were level. The frame came together!IMG_1978

IMG_1980IMG_1989IMG_1991I had been reading about what to add to the soil. I chose to do a little bit of everything I read about. Haha! I put down some weed blocking cloth. Then compost, cardboard, and soil. Voila! One and done! All in a day’s work!IMG_1995

IMG_2001IMG_2004IMG_2012Although, it did take me another week or so to buy and plant my veggies!IMG_2123

Time Line:

6/7/15: Planned, bought supplies, and assembled.

DIY Corner Desk

The first room I was ecstatic to do in our home was the office on the first floor. Within a month of owning our house, I had stripped the wall paper and painted the walls. Long story short, we wanted this room to be an office for both my husband and myself and an extra TV room. So we needed two desks, a couch and a TV. With our new homeowner spirit, we quickly went out shopping for desks. Well guess what? Desks are freaking expensive!! Plus, I couldn’t find what Mark and I were imagining in our heads. With all the initial enthusiasm squashed, this room paid the price and sat empty for a while.

I only used the Ikea tops to help plan my layout.

About a year after we bought the house I decided to try my hands at my first DIY/Ikea hack in an attempt to get this office going. I re-did my college Ikea desk and loved it, so I went to the scratch and dent section at Ikea and bought two more table tops (which I didn’t wind up using) for about $20 to make an “L” shaped desk as the second desk. Over the next 6 months, my ideas kept changing and I found some inspiration on Pinterest. Finally, I stumbled across free desk plans on Instagram. Thank you Rogue Engineer!  With the plans, the “L” shape, my Pinterest inspiration, and some pallets, I was finally ready to get started.
I started to drill my pocket holes and assemble the desk top. This turned out to be the most difficult part of the whole project. At this point, I had never drilled a pocket hole and I went slowly. Partially due to my inexperience, my stagger as I go technique, and the fact I had to finish each pocket hole by hand because I did not have a long enough drill bit, this part took several days spread over weeks. What a newb!IMG_1022

Finally, I was ready to buy the wood for the legs and move on from the top!  When I was having the guy at HomeDepot cut the legs, they seemed short, you know, to me, the super not experienced desk maker. I added an inch or two, figured I would double check it and could cut them down later if needed. In the end, I left the legs longer, which would come back to bite me. . . . The legs came together pretty quickly, despite the fact I only have a single Kreg Jig mini. I used both the plans and tips from Rogue Engineer and Shanty2Chic. After some mistakes I made on another project, I understood how to adjust the Kreg Jig to work for different widths of wood. I was super proud of myself with these legs!IMG_1606

I assembled everything another day and had my husband help me align the top to the frame better. Because I adjusted the plans to make this a corner desk, I kind of just made up where to place the under supports and prayed everything would work in the end. I sanded it all and moved it into the back sun room to stain. IMG_1667IMG_1616


I used a combination of Minwax’s Jacobean, Espresso, and Provincial stains and weathered it with some paint samples I had lying around. Then sealed the whole thing with Varathane’s Triple Thick Polyurethane.IMG_1707

When the time finally came to move it into the office, the desk did not fit! For the record, I did measure the door we had to fit through and did some quick measuring in my head, thought it would work. I was wrong. Some time, sweat, and removed door jamb later, the desk was in!

DIY Corner Desk

I just love this desk! From plan to completion this was a long time coming—more than 3 months!! And if you count all the Pinterest searching, way more than 3 months! But boy, was it worth it! Now, if we ever move, the desk stays!

Time Line:

  • 11/15-4/15: Pinterest searching
  • 4/19/15: Planned desk design
  • 4/26/15: Started pocket holes for the top
  • 5/10/15: Bought wood for legs and frame
  • 5/11/15: Assembled the legs and framed in the top
  • 5/16/15: Attached the desk top to the legs
  • 5/17/15: Sanded and stained the desk
  • 5/18/15: Weathered the wood with paint
  • 5/20/15: Stained the wood a second time
  • 6/7/15: Sealed the desk
  • 6/14/15: Moved the desk in the office
  • 7/14/15: Took finished pictures
  • 8/25/15: Blogged

Randomly Productive Saturdays

My weekends tend to be completely random, and yet quite productive. As soon as I start one project, my brain feels inspired by another thought and off I go to pursue a different project. Whether it’s driving to an estate sale, working on a picture frame project, dusting the family room, painting and installing more quarter round, pulling out ivy, or researching where to get cheap marble slabs . . . I just bounce from thing to thing.

Sometimes I think that I definitely have ADD and have turned it into a creative outlet. I don’t know about you, but my brain is this uncontrollable endless stream of seemingly random thoughts and only I can crack the code. It goes and goes and goes, jumping from this to that and back to this again. Then, out of nowhere, it stops. I can’t remember all the data that was just so freely flowing. I am constantly keeping tabs on my mind, self talking, making sure it stays somewhat organized.   Yes, that does sound completely crazy and yet, I am more than confident that it the most normal thing ever.  My random brain results in a bit of mess at times, mainly due to the ongoing, unfinished projects that seem to take me a hundred times longer than others to complete. But, ultimately, I attribute my successes to my crazy.

Right now I am in a place where I have all the time in the world (on the weekends) to sporadically choose how to spend my time with little rhyme or reason.   I think as life gets filled with more and more this is only going to become more of a lifestyle, only with more balance. When there are kids and carpools and such, I’ll have to squeeze in my plethora of projects into fifteen-minute sessions here and there. I can still be random, but I will also need to be more efficient like all those powerhouse mamas out there.

For now, I am embracing my crazy, random mind! It makes me happy to go with the flow and act on what I want to do, when I want to do it. There are so few opportunities in a week to just do you, so on my weekends, I will do work wherever my heart takes me! Even if that means only spending twenty minutes on installing the baseboards (that I started over a year ago). Embrace your crazyIMG_0843 IMG_0912 IMG_0927 IMG_0930 IMG_0852 IMG_0857IMG_0794


DIY Pallet Frames

So, you may have gathered from that last post that I tend to be a messy person. And it’s true. (Must maintain the neatness.) What you may not have figured out is that despite being messy, I can also be very OCD-ish. It presents in very peculiar ways like creating a graphic for work, or where to place the return address on an envelop, even what width/color washi tape is best in my bullet journal. (If you don’t know what a bullet journal is, you need to!) This OCD side of me usually means I develop a minor fear of failure. To avoid mistakes I research the heck out what I want to do. I have put hours into reading how to install baseboards, stain furniture, strip furniture, and hang art.

Now this last topic still gets me. My minor fear of hanging art the wrong way has grown slightly. I think what stops me is knowing that the art and photos I hang may change sooner rather than later. With babies on the mind and more vacations planned, I know wedding photos and twenties fun aren’t going to cut it forever. I know, I know, you just swap out pictures, add more, change it up. That’s the logical part of my brain. But, if you know me, I need things settled a certain way in my mind before I’m good with something. So, I have devised the perfect plan to inspire me to create a beautiful display of art in the house. I call it the pallet refrigerator door (just made that up).

I got my hands on some pallets and dissembled them (yes, I watched 3+ videos on disassembling pallets). It wasn’t until I saw the plain boards that I thought, this would be great for short-term photos!


I printed out 4×4 pictures so that I could size the boards, sanded them, then cut them down to size!  One long pallet could fit 5 prints, so I decided to cut the boards to fit two photos and three photos.IMG_0806







Next, I stained, dry brushed, stained again, sealed, and applied the hardware!  (This all took place over the course of a few days!)  I had the remains of two tiny Minwax stain cans left, so I mixed two to have enough.




My paint was just left over sample paints from last winter.  I started with a white, then added two extra colors with purple and green undertones.  I re- sanded down to my liking and stained over the paint to get the weathered look I was going for.

Now, to hang them . . . the hardest part!

The finished project, on the wall!  (I need to make one more to fill the wall out better.)  Do you like?




Maintain the Neatness

My new mantra . . . Maintain the Neatness.

I need to repeat this to myself as often as possible. Maintain the neatness. Do it. It’s not that hard, right? Oh, but it is! I am MESSY. Fundamentally, in my bones, messy. It even rhymes with my name. Hi, I’m messy Jessi. (Just writing that makes me cringe.)

I recently read some semi-credible article about how messy people are more creative and intelligent (it could’ve just been creative, and I’m inventing the intelligent part to feel better). It gave me such validation and it made sense. A simple mind needs the order to function and a complex mind is at it’s best handling many stimuli. I so want to believe that it’s true. And yet . . . it feels like an excuse. It also feels like an insult to organized people.  Organized people intrigue me, I admire them, I want to be one of them. But I know that I will never be a truly organized person. It will always take effort, it will always be something to work at.

And the truth is, in some situations, I NEED the mess.   I suffer without it. My work suffers when forced into a state of cleanliness. Take for example my work desk. I can boast of never losing a paper, and while I may lose the occasional black pen (I am actually developing a theory right now that I only lose said pens due to an attempt to keep track of them! I am either genius or straight crazy), I know where everything is. My desk looks like a bomb went off on it, but it works for me. I also crave disorder when I am being creative. My garage is full of sawdust and partially dissembled pallets, but it works while I am in the zone. Now let’s talk about the mantra. Maintain the neatness.

When I am not in the midst of a project or work day, I walk into the mess and it immediately gives me pause. As much as the mess is me and I am the mess, I don’t want to be that way. Let’s look at this from the other side, shall we? I had a small, impromptu, decide on Saturday night, Super Bowl Party. I threw it together in less than 10 hours. All the shopping, all the cooking, all the cleaning, in under 10 hours! I was proud. Second successful house party proud. The next day, I hear a new song on the radio on the way home from work.  I went inside, pulled up the artist’s Youtube playlist and jammed for possibly two hours. I am talking 17 year old, dance like no one’s watching, jam session. Here is where it comes back to the now, mess-less house. I said something to my husband when he came home, like I don’t know what got into me, that was fun! And he, the eternally organized, clean craving man, attributed my giddy-happiness to the clean house. AND HE WAS RIGHT. A clean house is nice. It’s not amazing or incredible or good, it is NICE. It is a subtlety that puts me into a good mood without me even realizing it! Isn’t that nice?

So as I fly home from LA, to spend 6 more (Spring Break) days in a recently cleaned home, I am prepping myself—Maintain the neatness. Do it . It is not that hard. It IS nice. It makes you happy, dance-party, shake your rump, jump around happy. Do it. Maintain the neatness.

So how do you maintain the neatness? Show me your ways!

{This mantra accidentally came from my husband. And it may be the first time since we moved in, that he’s asked his stubborn wife to clean, and I thought, YES! Although, technically, maintaining the neatness isn’t really cleaning. }