Sample Paint Can

When I was toying with paint colors for the bar, I fell in love with a moody green swatch. But, having painted whole rooms before, only to end up not loving the result, then harboring a simmering hate for the paint color and then finally after a few years getting the umph to paint the whole thing again, I now sometimes buy sample paint cans. Well it turned out the color I loved, ‘Studio Blue Green’, was indeed beautiful but it also clashed quite wonderfully with the Palladian Blue color the rest of the basement was painted.

So I kept the 1 27/32 US Pint size can. (Also I know this is going to sound un-American. Maybe it’s because I am a nurse and have been fed all the metric system propaganda, but really 1 and 27/32nds of a pint seems a bit like crazy town measurements) Not long after painting the bar I got to thinking one day, we have a very tiny bathroom that I just might be able to cover with just a sample can of paint. Now mind you this is a Sherwin Williams sample paint can which has a handle and is both cheaper and bigger than a Benjamin Moore paint can, I’m just saying.

Here is a little before. My favorite parts? Why the brown of course. Who doesn’t love a paint color very much inspired by the business of the bathroom? Also you can see there is a soffit which already makes part of the ceiling lower than average in an already lower than average basement ceiling. So of course the paint only went part way up the wall. I’ve heard this can make rooms feel cozy… and boy was it working in here.


Just how tiny is our bathroom you might be wondering? It’s so tiny that my nephew once accidentally smeared poop on the wall as he turned around to grab toilet paper.

See all of the spare inches here from your knees hitting the wall while making use of the facilities?


Really all the mainstays in the bathroom were just fine. I’m not sure I’d pick them, but I don’t really dislike them enough to bother changing them. Some of the special features of the bathroom are really experiential and not something that can really be captured on film. For the first 4 years of living in our house if you turned on both the hot and cold at the same time it made this horribly loud clunking noise that rattled the pipes so you could hear it throughout the house. What did we do about this noise? We told people when they came over to choose hot or cold, not both. Turns out a valve was just partially closed. Someone mentioned it to me in passing. Guess how long it took Brett to fix? Two. Minutes. Well really two minutes and 4 years.

Speaking of the faucet that brings me to the next feature. The hot and cold are mixed up. This is going to take longer than 5.5 years to fix at this point. The faucet leads to the third and final feature: The shape of the sink bowl sprays water with force directly on the drywall. Which the drywall doesn’t love or maybe it does because it gets so delighted it makes bubbles on the surface of the drywall…

Ohh I forgot, one more special feature and a sneak peak of the paint color. This little door leads to one of our outside water shut offs and is open to the crawl space. The idea here was to make it go away and hopefully have the kids not notice it. When we bought the house it didn’t even have a door, it was more of a open concept, bring the outdoors in kind of thing.


Spoiler alert: the sample paint can totally covered the walls.I’ll have all the pretty afters up real soon!


The Bar is all ready for its close-up

I found a better before of the bar from Zillow. Weirdly enough all the real estate photos from when we bought the house 5 years ago are still up. It makes me think I should have them taken down, but it’s kinda fun to look back and see what’s changed. Could I copy all the pictures and put them on our computer, sure, but I haven’t and instead typed this all up, so I probably never will…


So what did the bar have going for itself? The brick wall and all the necessary functional things. The downsides: It was ugly and never used. One of the contributing factors to never using it was that we never bought bar stools. The other being we used it as a dumping ground for our trash and recycling. There is something about an ugly space that makes me physically unable to keep it clean. Why go to all the work of cleaning it when the end result will still be ugly.

It of course had some perks, which include being largely functional. Clearly it wasn’t a huge priority to tackle when we first moved in. Actually we don’t really make priorities, it’s mostly whims. Usually the things we tackle must first start annoying us, then make us slightly crazy and only then might we be inspired to tackle something that will require a certain amount of labor or effort. My main motivation here was, Brett was pushing hard for Harry Potter bar and I didn’t want him to screw it up. Aha motivation!

So with out further ado… The final product. Let’s start with a good side by side, before and after:

side by side.jpg

From dark and sad to happy and Harry!

The wall color change alone would have made the room significantly better. I am a sucker for any blue green shade and the Stratton Blue hit the spot. (side note: spell check did not like Stratton, what did it suggest instead? Castration. Now I’ve never named a paint color, but somehow I don’t see Castration Blue flying off the shelves.) You might notice we also bought some stools, for sitting. I found them at Home Goods after having been eyeing some much spendier ones for a long time. They are quite stable and the perfect mix of warm with the wood and the metal base lending itself to a bit of an industrial feel.


The other biggest bang for our buck was replacing the bar top. The light natural wood tone of the butcher block helps lighten up a basement room with zero natural light. And it’s pretty. Now I don’t know if it’s true, but I think natural wood tones never go out of style. Trees are pretty much always cool, making wood pretty much always cool, so as long as you don’t mess with the wood tone and make it too orangey or in the former bar state- too poop brown, I think it will always look timeless.


Here you can see the base cabinets painted a nice matte black. They are slim with what I think is a soapstone counter top, but I’m mostly making that up. It’s sorta odd to me that the whole top row is fake drawers. I mean I get the fake one under the sink, but who really needs four fake drawers. Not me.


I used a stencil to trace the words trash and recycling, which surprise, holds our garbage and recyclables. I just did it with a white colored pencil and it hasn’t really come off. The funny thing is I did it in the hopes the kids would clean up after themselves and put things in the right spot, except for the small problem that they don’t know how to read yet… We often hear Levi yelling “Gideon put it in the one that’s has more letters!” The cute little leather pulls are from IKEA. Nothing like black and leather to really man up what could be kind of a nerdy space.


The shelves hold all of our glassware. I used to make fun of Brett’s shot glass collection, but now we just have a slightly more grown up version with collectible wine glasses and other glassware. I kinda like the nostalgia of it all, wineglasses from anniversaries, little beer glasses from Germany when we took the kids on an underground cellar tour in Nuremberg, glasses from the Guinness tour and of course Harry Potter glassware from the Harry Potter theme park.


Surprisingly, Brett was able to buy a bunch of Harry Potter stuff, despite his meager Target salary back in the day. He and Noble Collections (the place where you buy themed crap I mean- memorabilia) were quite close. Not so surprising, Brett bought all these treasures pre-marriage. When you know you found the love of your life young, you know you better spend what little money you have to buy all the glorious Harry Potter things, cause goodness knows your wife will be a real tightwad when it comes to collectibles. If you are wondering, of course the Marauder’s Map case opens and you can look at it up close.

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That little strip of white on the left is the doorway to the laundry room and to the right is the opening to the living room. You can see at the tippy top of the picture where the wands start along the soffit (see previous post for all the how-to wand hanging you’ve been dying to know). This part of the bar is the slightly less subtle section. But it’s also only visible when you are in the bar already. It feels more like immersing one’s self in the culture and less like something screaming HARRY POTTER to the whole of the basement.




And now for some cute little vignettes where I stole some decor from around the house. Have no fear the theme runs deep through every facet of the space.




I leave you with my two favorite kiddos having a snack at the bar.


I will say I find it quite a happy / useful space to be in now. The other thing I like is that all the mainstays aren’t themed. It’s all just decor, so if Brett’ love for all things Potter ever wavers we could come out okay.

Nuts and bolts of the Bar

Have you ever found yourself googling ‘classy Harry Potter wand display?’ Well then you my friend would have found yourself sorely disappointed. Until now. Not surprisingly anything I found that included any form of wand display was tacky and dopey, as one might imagine it to be.

I’m not sure exactly how I came up with the idea, but I found myself toodling around on Etsy for some type simple metal do-hickey that could hold wands. I stumbled across cribbage pegs. I was able to find some that were meant as replacements so we could buy 12 all one color. We went with black to fit in with the other black accents. It was as simple as drilling a pilot hole the size of the narrow end. Then we used a rubber mallet (just kidding the kids broke it like everything else we own. We used a hammer with a piece of cardboard to protect it) to pound it in. Because it is tapered we ended up with a real nice snug fit.

2 or 3 Cribbage Board Replacement Pegs

This is the listing for the .0001% of the population that is encountering the same problem:

Here is one of the 5 wands up:

img_20171214_175654710.jpgThe other end of the cribbage peg was basically made for wands with it’s little indent for balancing, with of course the caveat that Harry’s wand is a bit on the bulky side and we ended up using a little double sided tape to help secure.


When looking at this set up you might be wondering: Does it make me nervous that we have another soffit that is empty and in such close proximity to the wands? Well of course it does. The last thing you want to do is have any visual cues that could even potentially imply there is room for more wands. Brett, once an avid Ebay scourager, quit cold turkey and it does concern me to tempt him like this. A whole space that seems to be calling out for more wands. Nerve-wracking indeed.

So of course beyond the essentials of wand hanging there was also shelves to be hung to hold practical things like drinkware. The whole vibe of the bar was kind of a cool, industrial, light wood tones, masculine with a touch of pretty. We found these pretty sweet iron shelf brackets. They had an industrial matte black look that we were going for.


This is the listing for these which might be something normal people could be looking for:

Funny story about putting them up. In the world of home projects putting up a shelf is not up there on the super challenging scale. For reference it is a task my dad would take on. (He’s the one who taught me close enough and is not particularly handy, if you are wondering, yes, of course I take after him in this respect). So of course I wanted the shelves in a spot that didn’t hit all studs. Simple enough. We decided to use drywall anchors. If you are unfamiliar, basically you make an unnervingly large hole and shoved some sort of anchor through. We didn’t use those plastic little ones. We went for the metal-holds-something-like-100-pounds anchors. When you put the actual screw in it, somehow it springs out and anchors behind the drywall. Well for whatever reason that wasn’t shaking out for us. So what did we decide to do? We went around back, sawed a small section out of the drywall behind and then sawed a larger section. And then one person held the metal anchor from the back while the other person screwed the screw in from the bar side.

Sweet right? Now to be fair, behind the bar is mostly unfinished space. And we have a storage rack for bins covering the spot. But if you want to get down to it, did we saw through one wall to put shelves in on another? Yes, yes we did. Nothing like keeping yourself in business by always making more projects with each one you finish!

We used just simple pine boards for the shelf. Here’s a lesson for those new to any kind of DIY. Common board while cheaper is also much crappier. Spring for the pine, it’s usually less warped and only slightly more expensive. Watch out for anything that says linear foot. The pretty hard woods have a cost per linear foot you buy. How do we know this? We have some lovely expensive little maple book ledges in the kids’ rooms. When we got them cut at Home Depot the guy was trying to help us out and said “you know it’s by the foot right?” Instead of asking any questions we thought to ourselves ‘of course we measure stuff by the foot moron.’ But, like any two people winging it, we played it totally cool at checkout when we found out just how pricey our little boards were.

On the shelves we like to store our classy wine glasses and other drink ware. You’ll notice no shot glasses. As a kid Brett collected shot glasses wherever he traveled with his family. Which was among the reasons my mother was once terrified at the prospect of me dating him. A 14 year old dabbling in the slippery slope of shot glass collecting was clearly trouble. Spoiler alert: he turned put to be quite the catch who enjoys a drink in moderation and gifted his once impressive collection of shot glasses to a friend.


Since putting the shelves up I can’t exactly say we have really used any of the glassware, because it turns out we aren’t all that classy and mostly drink whatever in whatever it came in. With the except of wine, that might be overkill to drink from the bottle.

Stayed tuned to see the whole kit and kaboodle complete! I’ve got two simple projects I need to do before it’s ready for it’s big reveal!

Introduction to the Bar

For the most part Brett and I really design and decorate our home and the spaces in it together. So it is not like our whole house is pink and Barbie themed. (pretty sure my nieces have whatever Barbies I once had, making it hard to really bring the theme to fruition. Also the fact that it would have that creepy-dolls-staring-at-you feeling, which you shouldn’t let get in the way of decorating, but I wanted the overall feeling of our house to be less being watched, and more homey.)

But it could be said that I had not fully let Brett bring one of his great loves into the aesthetics of our house.

Harry Potter.

Now I read and thoroughly enjoyed all of the Harry Potter books. I went to many midnight showings of the movies. (None of that had anything to do with thinking a certain 15 year old Brett was a total babe.) But alas my wand collection, signed movie posters and first edition print book collection was non-existent.

Not true for Brett. His love for Harry Potter runs deep. So deep that prior to ever getting engaged I made him promise me that we would not honeymoon in Orlando and go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park. (Don’t worry we have since been twice.)

So all that being said, and loving my hubby the way I do, I agreed to let him do the bar up in all Harry Potter paraphernalia. But, being the wife that I am and being trepidatious that a part of our house would look like crazy town, we tackled it together.

Let me introduce you to the before:


This is how our basement looked on move in day 5 years ago. The bar is at the end of our family room on the right side. A few things to notice, yes, we once had a 100 gallon fish tank  in the wall. We no longer do, to the chagrin of some. Also the former owners were really into weird industrial sort-of shelf hanging things that couldn’t really support much weight.


You can see to the right in hunting orange is the laundry room and utility room which is all unfinished space. Through that little doorway is also our back stairs.

The bar was present when we bought the house, complete with a small sink, fridge and built in bar. Funny story about the sink… Before we ever decided to tackle this area of the house we’d occasionally use the sink to wash things or just get some water. We also happened to store all our paper bags from grocery shopping under the sink. Well at some point the long flexible tube that takes the water from the sink and drains right behind the wall into the basement floor drain, had become unhooked. And we didn’t notice. Until one day we opened the cabinet to add some more paper bags, noticed they were soaked and a whole slew of little flies swarmed out. Turns out it had probably been unhooked for a disgustingly long time. The moral of the story is the first thing we ever tackled for this area was painting the inside of the cabinets with Kilz because it seemed appropriate.

The other strange thing about this space was the counter tops themselves. They were made out of cheap common board and then “distressed.” The air quotes are because to distress the countertop they hit it with a hammer and also hammered the indent of screws in as well.

Here’s a closeup of the handiwork.


Sweet distressing right?

So apart from just decking it out in Harry Potter themed things, we had a few projects we wanted to tackle. We wanted to lose the yellowy beige wall color and paint the cabinets. You can’t see it in the before pictures, but on the fridge wall there is a slim countertop with cabinets below. All the wood in the basement is stained very dark and we were really looking to freshen it up.

The plan:  We had already painted the rest of the basement Benjamin Moore Palladian blue, which looks really nice and happy in a not terribly well lit space. We decided on Stratton blue, a slightly darker shade on the same strip for the walls of the bar.


The black is just a true black that we got from Sherwin Williams for the cabinets in a matte finish. Brett prefers to say flat black because apparently that’s what all the sweet cars are. I prefer Sherwin Williams for paint because they are usually cheaper and once they gave me a whole paint deck to borrow that I still haven’t returned, so I know all their colors. But I have to admit Benjamin Moore does have some perfect colors.

That’s also a little sneak peek of the counter top we landed on for the bar.

Prepare to be amazed next time at just how many Harry Potter things made it in and how it surprisingly doesn’t look like a complete joke.

Accio classy Harry Potter themed rooms!

Close enough.

UpI made one last ditch effort to at least winterize the fort and came up more than a bit short. It got up to 38 degrees one day last weekend and I was bound and determined to paint the roof with the membrane coat. There were a few unanticipated obstacles…

The first being: I couldn’t find our metal paint roller or tray. I did have an actual roller thing you put on it, but was worried about my success with only that. Now I don’t know how other people’s marriages work, but for me its easy to figure out who is responsible for the problem without any supporting facts. So after determining who was to blame, I surprisingly was not any closer to a solution. I had already put Gideon down for nap and was on a time crunch so I went to the garage to sort out a solution. This my friends was the solution:

That’s right. I used a sled as a paint tray (don’t worry it’s a terrible sled- it doesn’t really sled which makes it pretty lame- assuming you want to sled- which we typically do when we grab a sled). I also found a tiny little roller that actually worked with a big roll jammed on there. I also used a scrap piece of wood as a stirring stick. The whole set up worked for the most part.

The other thing I hadn’t really thought through was how I was going to paint what was out of my reach. I did grab our ladder, but on the hill it felt like a death trap. And that is why we have about 6 feet painted of the roof and nothing more. And guess what? We are leaving it until spring.

I have a bit of mixed feelings about being done with the fort for now. On the one hand we are so sick of it and are thrilled to do nothing with it. Sitting on a project is one of our strengths, one of the few things we consistently deliver on. On the other hand we are almost to the part where we get to do all the things to make it pretty and that is my most favorite part of all. It is also the only part of the project that I actually have any skills for. But alas.

I’ll at least show you how it looks for now, starting with the exterior:


There is a plexi window in there, it just isn’t framed out at all.

Here is Brett securing the tarp that will serve as the water-resistant (not to be confused with water proof) roof. Luckily, we are the kind of folks that know our way around good uses for a tarp. Every summer we do a huge slip and slide down our front hill with tarps. It’s about as classy as it sounds. We use screwdrivers to secure it and keep adding tarps til you can almost slide into the street. The point being this tarp has more than a few holes from rocks or sticks or what not as people cruise down the slip and slide. We are hoping it will do the trick until we can fix it up come spring.

The tarp is covering part of it, but you can see we at least finished up the lookout windows.

Here’s the view from the inside looking out:

This is the window and the door in the front of the fort looking towards the house.

These pictures are of the lookout window facing the street. Not to brag, but there is a bit of a lake view from this window. We are within walking distance to one of the few lakes in the cities that is bordered by a freeway on one side and a trailer park on the other.

Here is a bit of the interior, though it is a bit challenging to take pictures in tight spaces.


The left side is the front of the fort and the right side being the slope for the climbing wall. Now imagine yourself turning counterclockwise for a tour.

You’ll notice the grown up door has a lot of daylight peeking through. Just another thing to sort out come spring.

And finishing out our counterclockwise tour is Gideon showing off the back window where the boys love to watch the neighbor’s chickens and last is Levi by the sloped wall.

Well folks that is the fort as it is now. The blog is moving inside for the next couple (who am I kidding- many) months. I’ll show you around some of our projects inside the house we have been working on. Not to tease, but one of the projects pretty heavily involves Harry Potter. So have no fear the magic continues…


Turns out winter comes early here in Minnesota.  It also turns out we are the kind of people who don’t really pay attention to the weather or the news… (I mean who really needs to know what’s going on in the world anyways). Luckily for us, people at work mention things like snow and presumably if Minnesota had natural disasters, they’d mention things like that (but they don’t, because very few hurricanes make their way to these parts). So yeah, we had heard talk of snow, but I just assumed it was that flukey rainy type snow that doesn’t last and then it goes back to being a perfectly lovely fall. It sorta looks/feels like winter out there…


I love how hidden the fort is though with all the bushes covered in snow. See the green leaves, the bushes must pay as much attention to the changing seasons as we do!

Our first pickle with an early winter is that we still need to paint the roof with the thing that makes it waterproof. And it can only dry in 35 + degree temps.

Our second pickle is that trying to quick finish things up in sleet is sorta down there on the not so fun scale. If taking the kiddos on a whim to Germany because you found a killer deal on flights is at the top of the fun scale, than this is definitely below that.

Our third pickle is that our garage is filled with wood and sawhorses and random crap from the fort building so that we can’t park the vehicles in the garage. We have always been the sort of people that get it together for winter because as much as we hate putting things away we really hate going out in the cold in the morning.

Levi found a nice comfortable wood/sawdust pile to play in that could not have been a more perfect place for losing his Legos.

Our fourth pickle is that Levi was really trying to keep us on track for a finish before the winter deadline. So we have now decided on a calendar winter deadline, you know the winter that starts two months into winter on December 21st? Yup that one.

Now that was a whole lot of talk about pickles for someone who has to trash all the fries that may have come into contact with not just the pickle but it’s offending juices.

Moving on here is the front:

The circle door is fully functioning. We just need to add the handle to open it and latch it closed. With practice I have found slightly less awkward ways to enter through it, though mostly I forget what method leads to an easy entry or exit until I find myself contorted in the doorway thinking to myself “well it sure wasn’t whatever I’m currently trying.”


I do love that it feels a little magical just like I was hoping! You can’t really see the seam, but on the top peak is where we added the last of the siding.


This is me the day we worked on finishing the final lookout window. We managed to finish it the next day, despite how much we love working with plexiglass. It looks homemade in the kind of way that Levi and Gideon will know how much we love them because they will see how hard we tried.

I still occasionally peruse Pinterest looking at things with keywords like “fort” or “hobbit hole” or “secret lair.” I stumbled upon the most hilarious advice about building a fort for your kids. Here are the highlights:

Obtain a good site (pretty sure directly below power lines and butting up to your neighbor’s fence could be considered otherwise)

Acquire competent fort plans (does a mellow yellow 3D model count?)

Hire a competent builder (does the free, offset the minimally competent?)

Next time I’ll snap some photos of the whole fort in it’s mostly prepped for winter state. For now here is a sneak peek at the interior:


Even the interior of the fort still thinks it’s fall!


Setbacks on the way to the bare bones finish line…

We are nearing the bare bones finish line. The finish line that means leaving no major holes for our squirrel to hole up in the fort for the winter. At times I will jokingly refer to the squirrel and bunnies who live in our yard as our pets. I try to convince the kiddos that not only are our pets happy living their best life outdoors, we get to enjoy them while we are inside looking out the window and while playing outside alongside them. Who can forget how much fun it was the time the squirrel peed on me? Definitely not me. So while we love our pets they tend to be kinda messy and not at all considerate about managing their output. So I’d really rather they not take up residence in our fort.

That being said here is our must do list:

  1. Put in the long lookout window facing the street
  2. Side the final triangle (it was going to be a window, but huge sheets of plexiglass are expensive, tricky to cut and we don’t feel like doing it)
  3. Waterproof the roof: this involves covering the seams with some black sticker thing that is rubber like. We also plan to paint the plywood roof with Duck Coat which makes a rubbery type membrane. My only beef is that it is bright white. Who wants a bright white roof? We are looking into see if it can be tinted or painted over….
  4. Caulk the largish gaps

Our should-do-list is much longer (latches for doors and windows and plenty more)… and our finish-do-list in the spring may be even longer yet.

We’ve hit a few setbacks. The first of which is math. Let’s be real, hardly anyone likes math. I took AP Stats in high school and lucked out of math all throughout college (hooray for nursing!) Not a day has gone by where I have missed doing math. The only math I actually like doing is calculating how much things cost after killer clearance sales. So when we were siding the front side of the fort and these were the cuts we had to make….

We weren’t exactly thrilled.

I will say though, we did these cuts and it fit like a glove. Let’s be honest Brett’s dad did most of the cutting and Brett and I were physically present. My dad always taught me to say we if you were casually around something successful and to clearly name the party if something went downhill. So when we did these cuts it only needed one tiny little shave before the whole thing fit.

Our other setbacks include our drill crapping out. It had lived a pretty decent life for being so cute and little. We found an awesome deal for a set including: a new drill, a sawzall and an impact driver (like a drill only it makes a really annoying noise while you screw things in- but is much easier to use). We used all of these tools for 2 days and then the impact driver crapped out. There was apparently no possibility of an exchange, just a return of all the tools. So now we are back to limping our drill along. It feels a lot like in college when Emily and I would take the stairs to our third floor dorm room to be healthy or something, but we’d really just wish we had taken the elevator. One of us would inevitably have to coach and coax the other that it really was less effort to do the final half flight of stairs than it would be to go back down a half flight and catch the elevator the rest of the way. If you can’t relate, I don’t know what to tell you – we were lazy. Anyway our drill is like that, it’s sorta capable but it’s heart really isn’t in it.

Here is Gideon modeling the doors:

My dad expressed concerns that we didn’t get his measurements before cutting the circle door. I told him we will just have to give him a good ole heave ho and hope for the best. If nothing else, getting stuck could be quite the diet plan. Not any worse than his previous diets, one of which included exclusively garbanzo beans and coffee.

It’s not all setbacks around here though. The wood scraps have been a hit with the kiddos. We set up a pretty sweet obstacle course with lots of jumping, balancing and even some backwards shuffling.not visable house number.jpg

We have managed to finish nearly all the siding and put on the circle door for the front hobbit entrance. I’ll save those pictures for next time. (This is the obnoxious part like on the radio where they say, “coming up top 5 reasons why Minnesota is the best ever” and  then it goes to commercial. You of course change it to another station, but a part of you doesn’t want to miss the top 5 reasons, but yet you feel like you are playing into their hand if you turn it back even a second before the commercials are over. You know of course in your head Minnesota is already awesome and these 5 reasons won’t really change your view of it, but sometimes you just want to feel awesome.) So yeah next time be prepared to see an awesome fort.





And you just might be getting had right now.

Roofing, Walls and Wanting to be Done

Well, we have reached the inevitable part of the project where we really just want to be call it. I’ve toyed with the idea of an open concept fort. You know the kind of fort where we could just be done because we decide not to side the fort. It would leave all the untreated wood exposed to rot and it would ruin the whole vision for the fort… but on the other hand we could be done.

Since the last update we finished the roof! It was just as haphazard and fun as the initial piece of plywood roofing (in case sarcasm is not your strong suit – it was haphazard, but no, it really wasn’t fun). The only plus side was that we had to lift each sheet of plywood slightly less far above our heads, making it only slightly less dangerous as we went.

This has been our first project where the kids have really been right there the whole time. They have enjoyed each phase of construction; loads of mud, unattended hammers, and power tools. Levi especially loved climbing all over the framing. Gideon mostly loved dumping out all the screw boxes. It really never got old (to him). The worst injuries have been a pair of splinters, so I can’t complain.

The sun going down earlier has made for some extra challenges. We were used to doing some work with kiddos around and then doing the heavy lifting or thinking intensive parts after putting the kiddos to bed. We managed to finish the roof with a cell phone light and facing the van headlights towards the fort. In total it took 5 sheets of plywood. Three for the climbing wall side and 2 for the less sloped part of the roof.

We didn’t take much of a break after finishing the roof to get started on the siding. We ended up going with a Pine plywood siding. It has vertical slats for some interest, it was relatively cheap and we can paint or stain it to seal it.


Turns out our fort design did not take into account that we are not big fans of figuring out angles, taking lots of measurements and cutting out for windows. There was one wall that did not have janky angles or cut outs, so of course we did that one first. And we managed to screw it up. We didn’t think about the overlap functionality until we had already screwed the siding on and cut the second piece of plywood. At which point we totally saw how one piece was meant to go under and the second piece overlap. Yeah, we cut off the under part of the first sheet, so the over part on the second didn’t exactly have anything to go over. Instead of wasting whole sheets, we will probably add a hint of caulk where necessary. We don’t want it to turn into a prissy fancy fort the kids will never play in. So of course we are careful to not be too careful. Lucky for us that comes very naturally to us.

This is the first side we attempted. It has the lookout window facing towards the street. The part you can kinda see sticking out is the door for grown-ups. It’s still a work in progress. I’m pretty sure we have hinges on the inside when they should be outside, or something since it really can’t open. I mean I don’t want to be a stickler, but a door that doesn’t really open is a bit of a buzzkill.

Brett has been much more motivated than I have. While I have been offering up helpful tidbits like, “that seems really hard,” “this part sucks” or “I’m pretty sure we are going to ruin the whole thing,” Brett has been actually doing the work. He’s been a master with the jigsaw. He also has been carrying the gumption and can-do attitude.

The second wall had two windows and some crazy angles to work with. We tried our old tiling trick of cutting cardboard to fit the space, so we could just trace the angle. Just goes to show cardboard is not only for awesome 3D models…

Well, I was a little sloppy in making the cardboard template which lead to a little bit of a sloppy angle cut. It wasn’t too far off, but could have it been more correct? Sure. The funny thing is we own one of these angle do-jobs and have zero clue how to use it. I mean I do use it to trace my cardboard template, but yeah what do all the numbers mean? Who knows and why are there so many options!?

Brett’ dad is back today to help us with the front side, which is the most wack-job of all. Levi keeps reminding us winter is coming, so we better get a move on!



Is it a good idea for married folk to carry heavy things together? You’ll be surprised by the answer. Just kidding you won’t, it’s a no.

You think you have a happy marriage, right up until you start carrying heavy building materials together…

Actually heavy anything is probably more accurate.

As newlyweds we moved into an apartment and filled it almost exclusively with IKEA furniture. We just assumed we loved each other more than all the other couples who cautioned us to never carry heavy things together.

My sister-law told me about a furniture moving with my brother so harrowing she was devising a murder plot. That is if she didn’t die while carrying said furniture. Another brother of mine went so far as to make himself an elaborate furniture strap/backpack so he could move heavy furniture solo and live a long blissful married life.

This is us in our first apartment back in 2011. That couch weighs maybe 20 pounds…


Turns out Brett and I just hadn’t carried a whole lot of heavy crap together. We did foray into this realm during the bathroom reno when we had to carry a wicked heavy vanity with a marble top. The thrill of throwing money down the toilet, by breaking it, and the possibility of throwing out our backs, by which I mean dying, trapped under the weight, made it almost too fun to stand.

Good thing those memories were buried deep down so we went full steam ahead with the next steps of our project. Brett had gone to Menards and got these massive sheets of treated plywood, 4×8 and 3/4 inch thick for the roof of the fort. Luckily they were also soaked, so they weighed approximately a bajillion pounds.

Now I’m not saying I don’t work out. (That’s a joke. I don’t. I’m not even sure I believe in the whole premise of working out). But if you look at the average American, then consider that those who find themselves in the hospital could be considerably less healthy and with considerably more girth, then consider who is boosting them up in bed. Yup. Nurses. But somehow that skill set doesn’t exactly translate to carrying heavy things. Generally nurses don’t do a lot of carrying of patients. Except for one of our old favorite nurses on the CARE unit who was so good about getting people up and walking, he half carried them around the unit.

All that to say Brett ended up carrying 7/8 of a bajillion pounds while I carried the other portion (1/8 for those of you who are into fractions). I would also yell things like I’m going to drop it as I was dropping it. Brett loved that. Just when I was starting to think maybe I won’t die (this was after carrying the plywood out of the van and across the yard), Brett explained how we were now going to have to lift the plywood up a good 8 feet above our heads. Then slide it up the steep portion of the roof and then up and over the roof line to the other side.

I said “well, let’s give it a try.” Brett really was of the opinion we shouldn’t just try since there was no real exit strategy for hoisting a huge sheet of plywood above your head. Brett stayed on the ground to hoist from the bottom. I think my job was guiding it or pushing it or something.

This is Brett up on the roof with the piece of plywood we got in place.


If it sounds haphazard, it’s because it was. You’ll be happy to know after six years of wedded bliss we do still love each other. It does however, make me seriously question our judgment. Our neighbor literally asked, as I was almost dropping the plywood, if we needed help, we laughed and said “no, we got it.” Is that a sign of becoming a crazy person?

If you feel like you got scammed with this blog post. You did. We have one sheet of plywood up. But we got them all out of the van… so there is that. And last post I felt like we were on the verge of over-delivering. So consider this post of the lower-your-expectations variety.

So much progress that we are on the verge of an identity crisis.

We are right on the verge of over-delivering.

We started just over a month ago. This is on track to be one of the biggest projects we have ever undertaken and the fastest. I may very well lose all four of you. We could simply become no longer relatable.

I know those people. I actually got a couple I’m related to. The kind that like projects. The kind of crazy people that say things like “I don’t feel good about the day or like I’ve accomplished anything unless I do projects.” Not me. I can feel accomplished doing little to nothing.

There was some serious risk in taking on this project. Our usual motivator of it’s-getting-awful-annoying-to-have-a-toilet-a-tub-and-a-vanity in our living room, just isn’t there. The project is outside, can you ever really get annoyed enough with random wood lying around outside to motivate progress? I mean sure there is the risk of becoming dumpy neighbors, but with one neighbor that has a farm of cockleburs for a backyard and another who mows only the outside edge of his yard… That still leaves us with a considerable amount of time to let the project linger.

Maybe it’s the threat of winter, or maybe it’s because of the day I accidentally took Brett’s work computer with me to Minneapolis, leaving him with an unexpected day off work, but we don’t really recognize ourselves.

Since we last checked in, we have finished up the framing of the other two walls and the roof.

First up is the roof/wall that will be the climbing wall side of the fort.IMG_20170912_191030351

Luckily Brett’s dad had done most of the thinking for this part so we could really just execute the task. Leaning into our strengths really. You’ll notice there was no shortage of angle cuts. Luckily for us we hate math, fractions and angles.

The slope of the hill made things a little extra tricky.


After building the initial structure we went back through and blocked. Which just means adding support and strength to the structure. The horizontal pieces of wood in between the long vertical boards beef it up to support the weight of kiddos climbing.

And shucks, this is just the boys being cute. Gideon promised he was looking at the camera for the picture. Weird how trippy pictures can be, since it totally looks like he is looking somewhere else.


Here is the front wall all framed out. This perspective is from inside the fort, looking toward the front door.



Now you may be thinking to yourself that seems like a relatively small door considering the size of the average American. You’d be right. Now it’s hard to say for sure, since we haven’t completed that part yet, but I’m pretty sure a beached whale approach would get you in. Assuming you enjoy entering places belly first. Which let’s be honest who doesn’t? After taking that into consideration, we have decided to add a more normal sized door on the wall to the left.

Remember this wall, from last time? This faces the street and to the right is the above picture with the hobbit door entrance. We plan to add a door on this side. It would be more like 5 feet tall and could be entered with more of a head/shoulder dip. We want to side it and make it not terribly obvious that it’s a door. Like a secret. Only not since I just told you and made it even less secret with a paint addition that clearly labels the door.

door pic

Here is the hobbit entrance from the outside looking in. This captures a bit of the magic of entering in through the bushes. The bushes have made it obnoxious at times to get around and build, but are what make it feel hidden and magical.


This little entrance was tricky to configure. Really to work around some of the larger branches we couldn’t make it much taller or wider and still allow for a door to swing out. I’m still dreaming of a living moss roof on this little overhang over the door.


Our next steps are plexiglass windows and plywood for the roof. Anyone with a killer idea for a roof material that is waterproof, not blazing hot, and not super scratchy for our climbing wall part of the roof?

See you next time!