Tag Archives: christmas

Fridays at Home: Tree Branch Coat Rack

3rd January 2014

So my brother and his fiance both came in for Christmas, and I wanted to give them a different sort of present. Even though they are both dapper dressers, there are only so many scarves a guy can wear. I remembered that a couple of years ago, my brother posted this image on his Pinterest page:

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At the time, the rack was available on Etsy, but the price was well over $200, and I just couldn’t swing it. This year, when I went to have a look, the product was no longer available, and a quick search of Cantilever and Press didn’t leave me much hope for finding this product in my price range. There were a couple of mimics on Etsy, but unfortunately, they were just nowhere near the original. Now I’m not advocating ripping off someone’s ideas, and I certainly wouldn’t do this to profit from it, but I was dead set on making this as Matt and Christopher’s Christmas present. When my neighbor put out a really clean pallet the week after Thanksgiving, I decided I was all in. The boyfriend helped pry off the boards I would need, but the rest of the project was all me.

First, I knocked out the stubborn wood nails and sanded down the pieces I planned to use. Then I eyeballed the original image and the space next to my front door to get an idea for size – 2 feet by 6 inches, if you’re curious. I measured (Measure twice! Cut once!), made my marks and began sawing. Yes, with a hand saw. Not that tough once you get into it.

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When I finished, I made sure my edges weren’t too warped to work with and sanded some more before putting a very light coat of Minwax Special Walnut on, then sanding again. I didn’t want a super dark stain, but I did want the frame to look aged.

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Putting the frame together was the toughest part. If I ever do this again, I’d likely use wood glue first, but after a lot of stop and starts and a few obscenities thrown in, I went to the expert, aka my neighbor across the street. He has every tool known to man, so I brought my project over and asked for help. He handed over a Riyobi impact drill, one I definitely want. That sucker has some power. I drilled starter holes, two at each joint, then drilled my screws in. Some people build frames with nails, but since this is intended to bear weight, I used screws.

You can see below that I already cut my branches. Big mistake. Even though I measured twice, once the box was actually together, there was a slight deviation in the measurement. More on that in a minute.

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I had collected branches for a few weeks, attempting to dry them out and make sure they were bug free. Then I just used my large clippers to make a clean cut along my measurements, though this sounds easier than it is, as they are not straight. Therefore, you have to measure carefully to get the angles right. Sometimes it worked beautifully, sometimes not. The trick for the “rack” part of this is finding branches that have additional branches sturdy enough to bear weight as well. Plus, placing the branches inside the box is tricky. You want the “hook” to stick out enough to be useful, but you also want to make sure it’s inside the box enough to, again, be sturdy. Here, I’m just playing with placement:

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I drilled starter holes and screwed these branches in for durability and strength. It’s tricky, but you can eyeball pretty easily. For the additional “filler” branches, I just used nails.

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Unfortunately, as you can see below, some of the nails were visible once I’d started. Cue Angry Jenn. If I’m going to make something, I want it to look professional, especially if it’s a gift. And those nails were glaring at me. So I went back to Home Depot to look at trim. But the beauty of this project is its raw nature. Box it up too much, and it’s just not the same. So I called my aunt who is a true artist when it comes to woodworking, and we brainstormed. But when I got home, I remembered…I had moss. Lots of it. So I pulled out some moss and my glue gun and went to town covering the places where the nails showed.

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And bingo. No nails show. It still looks natural, and to be honest, the moss is barely noticeable. Win, win.

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Once I finished, I sprayed four coats of Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurathane to seal the wood. I really doused the branches themselves as I had sanded the “hooks” and wanted to make sure they were as sturdy as possible.

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Last, I added two hangers on the back and wiped everything down before hunting for a box big enough to house my gift.

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In the end, I was really pleased with the way it turned out, and it was so worth it to see the shock on my brother’s face when he realized I had made this myself. I absolutely love giving gifts, but giving someone a gift you’ve made that they’ve wanted is just a fantastic feeling. I hope they enjoy it for years to come.

Did you make any gifts for Christmas this year? This was so fun, I’m already trying to figure out what other gifts I can make.

P.S. Minwax in no way asked or paid for me to mention their products, I was just really pleased with the cost and quality of both the stain and poly.

Christmas 2011

27th December 2011

Merry Christmas, y’all! It was a whirlwind, but I really enjoyed it. My brother was in from New York, and we really enjoyed all being together. I’m so grateful he has been able to come down each year since he moved there, even though I know we won’t always be so lucky. So the best part of my Christmas? My family and working together on my dad’s big surprise. It’s been a really rough year for a number of reasons, but mainly because starting on January 1 this year, my dad got pretty sick and was sick for several months. He’s doing much better now, but it was nice to be able to do something really special for him.

However, my sweet family also spoils me, so I thought I’d share some of my Christmas spoils below. Maddie wasn’t left out, never fear. She is currently sacked out in her Christmas sweater, a Christmas dog cookie hidden away somewhere for later. 😉

Created via Olioboard

 {From top left: Thirty One tote, Kohls SO moccasin slippers, Jonathan Adler elephant bud vase, Jenni Jewel four leaf clover gold necklace, Steinmart houndstooth scarf, Houdini vacuum wine stopper, Marshalls gift card, Grip shopping bag grippers, Fujifilm Instax Mini 7s}

I hope each of you had a fantastic holiday if you celebrate Christmas. I also hope you had a chance to remember those less fortunate at this time of year. Tomorrow I hope to spend a good bit of time trying to catch up on reading and some reviews, getting ready for a new start with 2012.

Faithful Place by Tana French

16th July 2010

Finding a new, great author is something I can only describe as akin to the best parts of Christmas morning, the first onset of fall, and the first long evenings of summer (before the humidity and mosquitos, of course). It fills a reader with such anticipation, gratefulness, and awe. I have certainly felt that. Anticipation tinged with sorrow once the new book is read, knowing the next could be years in the making. I read a post the other day (but now cannot remember whose – if it’s yours, message me) that the author didn’t really matter; the book’s the thing. That is true to a certain extent, but there’s so much more to that simple statement. Without the author, the talent, the simple touches that make the characters memorable, the ability to set a scene without describing it… none of it would be there.

A few years ago, when I first picked up In the Woods by Tana French, I knew I had found something special. I’m not a genre snob. A quick glance through my posts reveals a healthy mix of just about anything although my go-to book would be a good mystery. Though as Jenna Schnuer of the blog American Way says, In the Woods is “anchored by crime, therefore earning [its] “mystery” billing… [it] could also live quite comfortably on literary-fiction shelves.”

Tana French is just a damn good writer. I knew that from the first pages of In the Woods when I had to re-read a passage several times because it was so darn good. The Likeness followed, picking up on Cassie from the first book as she goes undercover. Her boss, Frank Mackey, is the central figure in Faithful Place, and although this book wasn’t my favorite of the three, my opinion of French hasn’t changed one bit. The book is gritty and ugly, and as I read, I knew it would only get uglier.

At 19, Frank, sick of his deadbeat drunk dad and loud, violent family, decides to hoof it to England with his girl, Rosie Daly, leaving his nagging Ma, drunk Da and gaggle of brothers and sisters behind. But as he waits in the darkness, he tells us “the night faded to a thin sad gray and round the corner a milk cart clattered over cobblestones towards the dairy, and I was still waiting for Rosie Daly at the top of Faithful Place.”

Twenty-two  years later, Frank believes Rosie ditched him because of his embarrassing family and is now living in Dublin, the head of Undercover, divorced from his ex-wife Olivia, and picking up his daughter Holly for the weekend. When they get home, set to order pizza and watch a movie, Frank gets a call from his sister Jackie – his only link to the family he hasn’t spoken to in 22 years. Jackie tells him that the buildings up at Faithful Place are being gutted, and Rosie’s suitcase was found stuffed up the chimney. The hurt, doubt, and dread flood Frank, and he begrudgingly goes back to Faithful Place, his family, and everything he still resents.

As Frank says about Undercover, “you create illusions for long enough, you start thinking you’re in control. It’s easy to slide into believing you’re the hypnotist here, the mirage master, the smart cookie who knows what’s real and how all the tricks are done. The fact is you’re still just another slack-jawed mark in the audience. No matter how good you are, this world is always going to be better at this game.”

And that sums up the book. All the things Frank thought he left behind in Faithful Place roil up to meet him, and he’s sucked back into this sad place that doesn’t relinquish its occupants happily. Frank hates, truly hates, his father and Faithful Place. He got out early, but it has left an indelible mark on him and has touched every person who remains. The language, the dialect, and the trashiness of Faithful Place bring Francis Mackey back to boyhood, back to a time when the rules were different and squealing was a heck of a lot worse crime than stealing. Tana French doesn’t hide any of it, and she shows Frank’s dirty struggle between the life he knew and the life he knows now. Faithful Place has a healthy dose of reality and shows that there are some people willing to take the life they believe they deserve, while others will bitterly take the hand dealt with brutal consequences. The desperation of these characters is palpable, and I could almost almost understand the motivations to just get the hell out, no matter how.

Three days after the release of this novel, I sit here, feeling like a kid after the hoopla of opening presents and exploring the depths of my stocking, the reality that the day is almost over beginning to strike. I’m ready for next Christmas.