Tag Archives: hobby

Doors, Wheels, and Headboards

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What do you do when you have a box spring and mattress and no bed set? Why, you make one of course. Bed sets are expensive and then you have to worry about getting matching furniture, a dresser, end tables, dressing table, etc. Who wants to shop through huge department stores offering no interest for five years and the best deals in town? Not me!

Instead of barn wood, this time I am going to use an old five panel door. It was a free door we got from a friend. They got it off of Craigslist. If you are looking for one, I would suggest Craigslist, garage sales, swap meets, or construction areas. People tear down old houses and the stuff is just going to the dump, They are often glad for someone to take it off their hands.

One side of the door I had was covered in a seventies era wavy panel, which much to my glee, came off easily and uncovered that side of the door was unpainted. Therefore, it was easy to sand the edges and prep for finish. After two coats of polyurethane, it was ready to go. I used 2x4s to create legs that could easily be adjusted for height and screwed to any standard bed frame.

Now for the fun stuff. I purchased an old iron wheel on Craigslist which I used for the play Oklahoma. It is a great piece, but what in the world was I going to do with it afterwords? Using the door knob hole, I inserted the axle of the wheel and wired the socket from an an old lamp through the hole. I attached the wheel securely with a bolt and plugged that baby in. We have a headboard with a lamp all ready to go. Check out the video below!


A Smile in the Face of Haters

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Hopefully after reading my posts and watching the videos I embedded, you were curious and decided to go to my channel to check out my other videos. And then after being so impressed with the wisdom and information shared in the videos, you subscribed to my channel so you would never miss a video. Okay, so maybe you weren't quite so impressed. I said “hopefully” didn't I?

Adding videos and throwing them out there for public consumption has been an experience to say the least. It's fun to check in and watch the views counter rise every so slowly. I hit a hundred views! Then a thousand! People are actually watching what I made and uploaded. My videos aren't random funny moments I happened to film with my phone. They are actual projects and ideas that I decided to film and talk about, edit, and upload. Does that mean they are useful to everyone? No. I realize that and never expected otherwise.

It has been fascinating to see which videos are the most watched. You think you know which ones will garner the most interest, but you will be surprised, just as I have been. And then there are the videos that garner controversy. What in the world? No one is forcing you people to watch my video. And if you do happen to click on the monstrosity that is my attempt to teach you something you may not know, no one is forcing you to sit through it to the very end. In fact, in the sidebar, there's a whole slew of other related videos you could watch instead. It's even possible that what you think is trash could be valuable to someone else.

But alas, this is the internet after all and people love to drop nasty comments. You can say what you want to say without filters because you are sitting in your mom's basement in your skivvies drinking diet soda and petting your cat. See, I just did it! And it was so easy. I've found that most people leave constructive comments, even if it's an opposing opinion. And I've learned some valuable things from comments.

But how do you react to the haters? I try very hard to thank everyone for their comment and to very politely respond. Take the high road if you will. Everyone has the right to their opinion right? But there is one that is starting to really stick in my craw. Multiple commenters have said the same thing, given the same criticism. I pointed the first commenter to my video, where I explain my reasoning. The second I thanked for his ideas. The third I politely agreed to disagree. If there is another, I may say just what I'm thinking. Who knows. If I do, will it affect the number of subscribers. And if so, positively or negatively?

I want to avoid the anonymous arguing that the internet engenders, but when is enough quite enough? I guess we'll just have to find out won't we?

Check out my videos and leave some positive comments ;), or leave some in the comments section below.


Craigslist and Crossfit

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There are many places for you to sell your stuff. For years, Saturday mornings were for garage sales and flea markets. People always made sure to have cash on hand for that special find. You were restricted to local fads and fashion. If a particular item you wanted wasn't available in your area you were out of luck until the whole family jumped in the station wagon and you all took off for grandma's house. You gave yourself plenty of time to chase after those cardboard signs on the side of the road. You were hunting in new territory after all.

Flea markets were the best because all of those garage sales came to one place. The vendors did all of the work for you and brought those treasures down to local drive in. The fun was in the bargaining, the back and forth. Of course, there were always antique stores if you were rolling in it. They have everything all cleaned up and presentable, and you pay for that service all the way.

All of these methods were great, but left a big hole in your heart when you couldn't find the last piece to your full set of Garbage Pail Kids cards. After searching high and low, your collection still was not presentable to the world. Enter online auctions. Yahoo and eBay started out as fierce competitors. I actually preferred Yahoo for a long time. You could get better deals hands down. But eBay grew in popularity and simply had a much greater inventory. Yahoo slowly started to fade away as eBay became more and more popular.

You started by buying all of those things you had been searching for, and when your collection was either complete, or you were out of money, whichever came first, you decided, “Hey, I could do this! In fact, I could make a ton of money selling my sock monkey collection. Then I would have enough to really buy every Matchbox car ever made!” You posted your first item for sale. The pictures were crappy, taken with a 1.5 megapixel digital camera onto a floppy disk. You charged too little for shipping and realized it was a royal pain to guess the weight of the package without knowing where you were sending it yet.

But you learned and technology got better. You verified your Paypal account and didn't even realize that when eBay bought Paypal, you were getting double charged by the same company. Ebay's rates kept slowly creeping up, so you had to find things with high margins just to make a profit. It was great that there is pretty much a buyer for everything you have to sell somewhere in the world. There's always someone who wants to pay for your junk. You no longer have to waste entire Saturdays. But man, you wished you could actually keep more of what you were making. You realized you could just charge a ton for shipping to make up for your losses, until eBay caught on to that scheme and started charging you a percentage of shipping costs as well.

The big things were the killer. High shipping costs and high auction prices drove up eBay's percentage. Enter Craigslist. So you've once again limited yourself to one geographic area. But because you are online, your customer base is everyone in that area, not just the motivated people who are willing to wake up at the crack of dawn on weekends. You are still advertising for millions of people if you live in a populated area. And there are no fees. There are no Paypal processing fees or frozen funds because of a dispute. It's back to the old days of cash and carry.

Now enter the creep factor. You have no idea who you are meeting. Are they honest? Should you tell them where you live or meet in a public place? What if the item you are selling is too big to take to a public place? Do you want to give total strangers your phone number and address? The whole system is built on trust and unfortunatley the world is full of untrustworthy people. It's amazing actually that Craigslist has flourished and grown so much. Despite the drawbacks and uncertainty, people are adamant to look for the good and trust others. That's an awesome thing in this world.

On the other hand, you have to resign yourself to the fact people have no manners. They send rude emails. They don't show up for appointments. They try to talk you down in price even after you've agreed and driven halfway to meet them. But then the next guy shows up on time, pays without complaint, and thanks you. All is right again in Craigslist land and you go ahead and do it again.

I have begun a little side business selling jump boxes for plyo metric and Crossfit workouts. Because people want different sizes, I take orders and when it is done I email them back and set up a time for pick up. Unfortunately I have found that Craigslist buyers often have cash burning a hole in their pocket when they initially contact me. They agree on a price and the time it will take, but a week later when the box is done and I text them back, suddenly they don't respond. Or they do and say they are no longer interested. That money they had last week is long gone. Well now I have an unsold jump box that cost me time and money to build and no buyer. I have to go back and try to sell that particular size, hoping someone else wants it. And with Craigslist I can't really ask them to give me a deposit up front to keep them honest. There is no rating system that gives them confidence in my honesty. People choose to trust on Craigslist, but not enough to give me money in advance. I'm stuck selling for a customer who may or may not follow through.

It's frustrating, but I don't know that there is a solution. It seems things have gone full circle. I've got something in my garage I want to get rid of and I need to find someone local willing to buy it. Maybe I should put out a garage sale sign out on the corner.



My Back No Longer Hates Camping

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Do you love the outdoors and love camping, waking up with the sun, the sound of birds in the morning and crickets and frogs at night? Do you find the fresh air invigorating and cold (properly filtered) mountain stream water refreshing? Did you grow up camping with your family and maybe even with a scout troop? Did you vow to teach your children the joys of camping? Did you reach a certain age, and after a night spent in a sleeping bag on top of a pad, get up to find you could barely walk from the stiffness and back pain? That could ruin anyone's motivation to continue venturing into the great outdoors.

Some of you never have and never will be phased by hard, uneven, rocky ground. My hat is off to you, though tinged with a bit of jealousy. It didn't take my back long to revolt. I don't think my back waited until I hit thirty to firmly insist I never ever try to trick it into thinking a half inch foam pad is the same as a plush memory foam or pillow top mattress. My back drove it's point home very effectively with knots and pain only a sadistic massage therapist would relish kneading out.

Just as with all problems in life, there are many solutions. For many, the back revolt coincides with a time when you are finally secure in a good job and the income is generous and steady. You are a grown-up now and worked hard to get through school and suffer through multiple job interviews. You have a mortgage, two cars, and 2.5 kids. It only make sense that you drive your new pickup truck or SUV down to the RV lot and take out essentially a second mortgage on a fifth wheel, trailer, motor home, or camper that you will use at least twice a year. Hopefully you could see the sarcasm dripping from the last few sentences, because that is just crazy. What is the point of buying a house on wheels? If you don't want to leave your house, then just stay home.

You are not the type to blow your investments and savings on a trailer, so you decide the way to continue camping and still be comfortable is to buy cots and air mattresses. They are a bit pricey, but don't require a loan officer. Of course you also need a tent large enough to accommodate the new camp furniture. These are not bad options for car camping. They take up a lot of room in your garage or storage shed, but the mattress is well worth the struggle of packing and blowing up when it's time to settle down. Hopefully you like campsites with neighbors and close quarters, because there is no way you are hiking all of that gear in. If you aren't like me, you won't end up with the loud drunk party in the site to your left and the very vocal middle of the night amorous couple in the site to your right.

You want to backpack in to your camp site while still saving your back from the horribly uncomfortable rocky ground. Therefore, you decide to look at hammocks. Your friend tells you they are a bad idea because you'll end up sleeping in a “U” shape. Your friend, of course, has never actually slept in a backpacking hammock. I vow to you here and now, if you buy a good quality backpacking hammock, it will change your life forever. You will sleep like a baby and look forward to camping to catch up on sleep.

I use a Hennessy Hammock and wouldn't trade it for the world. It is designed so you sleep at a diagonal. If you do, you can lay completely flat. You can even sleep on your side very comfortably. The HH I have uses a bottom entry Velcro system and includes mosquito netting and a rain fly. It is essentially a hanging tent. It has minimal impact on the environment because it is off the ground and the straps are safe for trees. You can buy different size straps to match the most common tree trunk sizes in your area or do as I do and use ENO slap straps which are adjustable to different size trunks. Sleeping in the HH is extremely comfortable and the nature of the material and design provides give to parts of your body that need it and support to others. It packs up nice and small and is great for backpacking. I've used mine in heat, cold, rain, and snow and have been perfectly comfortable. HH has under pads and insulation for cold weather, but I have found that using a reflective bubble type windshield screen and a small fleece blanket work really well to protect you from cold air flowing underneath the hammock.

It is also possible to make your own hammock out of parachute nylon and 550 or parachute cord. Homemade hammocks tend to use the cocoon type design to protect you from the elements. This is great, but I can't give up the built in bug and rain protection in my Hennessy Hammock.

Don't let old age and stiff muscles stop you from adventure. Try out a Heneessy Hammock and change your life. Check out their website for great information and informative videos. When you do, let me know how it goes in the comments below or feel free to ask any questions.


So You Want to Write a Book, Just Like Everybody Else

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It seems everyone has aspirations to write a book. Does that mean everyone has something totally interesting and unique to say that the world needs to hear? Ummm, I think not. If the comments section of blogs and news sites are any indication, there are people who should never be allowed to type anything readable by the general public, and not just because of atrocious grammar and spelling. Some people are just ignorant. Of the people who claim they want to write a book, how many of those actually sit down and take the time to write the first chapter, or even the first page? Not many.

Have you ever been to a library and just wandered through the aisles trying to take in the sheer number of books on the shelves? Maybe your local public library isn't that impressive, but think of a university library. There are hundreds if not thousands of books on the shelves that have never been checked out. And it is probably getting worse instead of better. There is no need to check out that obscure book for a school paper when the same information is easily found on the Internet. Even if you can surmount the odds of getting your brilliant book accepted by a publisher, you and your editor may be the only two people who ever read it. Oh, and your mom. She'll read it just because you wrote it.

What are the odds of writing the Great American Novel? Let me put it in a bit of perspective. Take all of the people who claim they want to write a book and put them in a room. Now only those who actually start writing can move on to the next room. Huge drop! Now only those that actually write more than a chapter or two can move on, then only those who actually finish. From there take those who have the guts to show their work to someone, be it a publisher or just a friend. Your room gets even smaller still. Now here is where you can choose the traditional path of shotgunning your manuscript to every publisher you can find an address for or you can decide to go it on your own. That's right, self-publish.

That takes what amounts to a tiny percentage of the starting crowds and divides them even further. For the sake of this article, we'll travel down the self-publishing route. But don't get too excited. The self-publishing room is much more crowded. It's easier and allows you to publish your work, even if it sucks. There is no professional quality control or editor deciding if your book is marketable. It may just be the worst thing ever written and you can still publish. A very small percentage of the room will have the capital to self-publish a physical book. We'll let those hoity toity types go off into their gilded room. The rest of us will be milling about aimlessly in the self-published ebook room.

There was a time when ebooks were just a fad. Experts and bloggers predicted ebook readers would be the garage sale items of tomorrow. But with some powerful companies standing behind the ebook like Amazon, Apple, and Barnes and Noble their popularity has only grown. Those companies have also seen the importance of allowing their books to be read on multiple platforms, like ebook readers, tablets and computers. Gradually, e-readers have become a staple, recognized and accepted by the general population. They are easy enough to be used by grandma and hip enough to be used by the cool kids, or at least the cool kids who want people to know they read.

So what are your options in self-publishing your ebook? They are many, but I'll focus on the Barnes and Noble Nook store and the Amazon Kindle store. For both, it's actually a very simple process.

Each store has a similar process. You upload your ebook file and they convert it, B&N to an ePub file and Amazon to their proprietary Kindle format. You enter in your title and synopsis and upload your book cover. You enter all of your personal information into your account so they can send you any money you earn and also send you tax information at the end of the year. At first I uploaded my book to both, but it is now only in the Kindle store.

I'll tell you why. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offers some benefits if you commit to only sell your book on Amazon, which is called KDP Select. They allow you to add your book to the Kindle Lending Library so that anyone with the popular Prime membership can borrow your book for free or buy it and lend it to their friends. You don't directly make money when someone borrows your book, but at first the important thing is to just get people to read it. If it is good and stands on its own, they will recommend it to friends and hopefully spread the word that yours is the book to read on the beach this summer. And with KDP Select, you get a piece of the KDP Select Global Fund, which basically means you get paid a percentage of the fund each month based on the number of times people borrowed your book. It is not a direct royalty per book sold, but rather a piece of the larger pie.

With KDP Select you can also manage five promotional days per quarter. You can choose which days you want your ebook to be free and Amazon automatically adjusts the price on those days. It is a great way to once again get people to read your book. I've found, at least in my own experience, that there are downsides to free books. People tend to get all of the free books they can just to add to their collection, but don't necessarily read them. There is much greater chance someone will read a book they had to pay for.

If so, what is the optimum price point? $.99? $1.99? $5.99? That I am still trying to figure out. I can say there is a pyschological effect when charging a higher price. People tend to think it is of greater quality if it costs more, (thinks cars or clothes) but they are unwilling to gamble on an unknown author above a certain price. Maybe $5.00 is that magic number. I don't know. You can change the cost, so feel free to test things out at different price points to see what happens.

How did I end up writing a novel? Good question, although I don't really have a great answer. I was sitting in a hotel room on an extended business trip with my laptop and I opened Word and started to type. It was really that simple. I had no plot in mind, no synopsis, none of things you learn to do in school. I started to write and it just began to flow from my fingertips. The story just came out. I started writing everyday and it just grew and grew. Now I've scared you all off from ever reading my book.

“If he didn't work for months on his plot line and character development, I'm never going to read it,” she said with her nose firmly and snootily pointing towards the sky.

Guess what, the process is not the same for everyone. My book may not appeal to you or it may be your favorite book ever. You'll never know until you try. Although I had friends and family read it to help me edit, I know there are still some small things that need editing. With KDP, I can upload a newer version and it will be pushed out to everyone who has purchased the book so they can download the latest version. It is almost impossible to catch all of your own mistakes and I have found that going back a year later, when things are not so fresh in my mind, I have found mistakes that I missed multiple times before. It's about time for me to go through the entire book and make corrections. They are small and insignificant to the story, but I want my book to look professional.

Here's my chance to throw in a pitch for my book. It's called “The Flaming Grenade.” There is the normal version which I would rate at PG-13 lite and a Teen version which is a solid PG. I created the teen version so I could comfortably let my kids read it. I am pretty conservative in what I allow the kids to read, and I would let an 11-12 yr old read the teen version. The book has action, adventure, travel, love, suspense, history, and a little sci-fi/tech. Something for everyone!

For extra incentive to my blog readers, I have set my promotion period for next week, 05-09Aug13, so you can grab it for free. If you are itching to start sooner, which I recommend, you can always go ahead and buy it!

Read my book, start writing yours, and don't forget to leave positive reviews on Amazon!! Let me know what you think in the comments.


So You Want to Make Money Online

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You gets ads in your email inbox all the time telling you how much money you could make online. You see guests on the daytime talk shows you watch while filling out resumes. They talk about how they make $10,000 a day online and you can too. You’ve read blog entries and tried websites. You’ve taken surveys online and have some great ideas for YouTube videos that you are sure will go viral. Well, I’m here to exhort you to enthusiastically pinch yourself awake and get a life. Can you make money online? Absolutely! Will it be quick or easy? Not a chance.

If you were starting your own business, you wouldn’t expect to show up on your first day, unlock the door to your newly rented office spaces, and have a line of customers around the block. You wouldn’t print your own diploma, put it in a nice frame and start seeing sick patients! OK, so maybe you would, but I’m hoping the majority of my audience is made up of better stuff. So why do people think going online is any different? Why do people think it takes less effort to be successful online? It’s like the Internet makes people stupid.

I am here to tell you that it takes time, energy, and hard work to make money online just like it does in real life. I am going to dedicate a series of posts to online money-making ideas because I dabble in a few. I don’t expect to make big money and I haven’t really put in the time or investment to do so. I do it more for a little extra cash now and then. Some of them could be bigger money makers if I really invested the time, but I have a good stable job and I don’t depend on my online activities to pay the bills. If I can make a few bucks doing what I enjoy, then why not!?

I will dedicate the first entry to my Zazzle store. Zazzle.com is a website where you can submit your own designs and they will print those designs on a multitude of different items to include shirts, hats, bags, stickers, key chains, iPhone cases, speakers, coffee mugs, plates, clocks, etc, etc; you get the idea. You take your designs and manipulate them on the Zazzle template specific to each item and then post your creation for sale in your own Zazzle store. You can design and post each item separately or do a bulk creation. There are pros and cons to each. Separate creation takes time. You have to create the template for each item, choose the color, write the title, write the description, pick a store category, pick a Zazzle category, and choose tags. But each item is uniquely designed to look its best. With bulk creation, you get your design onto a lot of products quickly, but your image may not be positioned where you want it and the colors or text may not be just right. I’ve done both and greatly prefer individual creation despite the added time commitment.

You earn money by getting paid a percentage of the cost of the item. You can even choose your percentage. For example, you can increase your profits by electing to receive a higher percentage. However, the cost of the item will go up, thus potentially reducing the number of sales. Zazzle takes its cut no matter what, as it should.

The trick is to find a unique design that has wide appeal. Create a niche product so that anyone searching for your tags will be taken to your store. For example, one of my best-selling designs is of Sicily. There are a few other sellers of Sicilian themed items on Zazzle, but I spent a long time in Photoshop creating a unique and high quality graphic. Sicily may not be one of the most common search terms on Zazzle, but whenever it is typed in, my designs pop up close to the top.

Zazzle items are high quality and worth their cost. There is real money-making potential. They add new product lines all the time and it takes time to keep up. If you want your design on every available product you are going to spend hours and hours. Add a second or third design and compound your time accordingly. Zazzle submits a payment as soon as you reach the minimum threshold of $50. You will then get the money deposited by the 15th of the following month. You can also choose to keep the money in your Zazzle account or spend it on Zazzle products. Zazzle sales go up dramatically during the Christmas holiday and there are smaller peaks for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, and other special occasions.

As a member you get frequent email promotions for great discounts. I have used my earnings and discount codes to buy some awesome gifts.

I’ve had a store on Zazzle for about 4 years and have made around $1500. I have, in spurts, worked on and created a few graphics, but really haven’t consistently invested that much time into my store. I’ve also spent very little time promoting my store through connections with other Zazzle retailers or through social media or websites. I’ve selected a more passive role in just letting users find my store through search terms. If I can make fifteen hundred bucks doing essentially nothing, think what I could do if I really started promoting my store!

Check out my Zazzle store, search through the products they have available in other stores, and try your hand at creating a product to sell. Who knows, with a lot of work and time, you may just beat the odds!

Tell me what you think in the comments.

See other gifts available on Zazzle.

Lazy Summer Days on the Porch

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The front porch, a place to sit with a glass of lemonade, talk to the neighbors, and watch the kids zoom up and down the street on their bikes. It's a perfect place to watch a summer lightning storm or read a good book. If you are lucky, you have a large wrap around porch complete with a porch swing. If you have spent a little time creating the perfect porch, maybe you have a cooler and some speakers to blast summer hits from the Beach Boys.

Shift scenes to a city park. You have all seen the iconic pictures of old men playing checkers or chess in the park right? Ringers sit and wait for unsuspecting challengers. Old men while away the hours until their wives call them home to supper, talking about the good ole days and swapping stories and jokes. People walking their dogs stop to watch the action and say hello to the regulars. Runners wave as they pass and skateboarders zoom by with headphones blasting deep bass beats.

How about combining the scene at the park with the relaxing atmosphere of the front porch? Create an outdoor checkerboard the perfect size for your front porch and discover the secrets of lazy days shouting “King me!” and scoring multiple jumps. For this checkerboard, all you need are pieces of scrap wood, preferably a 4×4, some paint, and some patience. Don't worry about your board being perfectly level or smooth. You are going for the outdoor homemade look. You want something that would sell for big bucks at a folk art store and would be the upscale envy of any Cracker Barrel customer. A steady hand and some paint complete the board.

So what, pray tell, would you use for pieces? You could always steal pieces from your game closet, but what fun is that? Instead, collect some bottle caps of your favorite beverages. We went with the epic battle of cola vs root beer. You could do Coke vs Pepsi or even use caps from something a little stronger. The best thing about it? Someone just has to drink the sodas so you can use the caps. Tough life eh?

Check out my how to video below and then fire up the saw. Summer's half gone!!




Vinyl Record Wall

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Old vinyl records are the best. Growing up I had a bright orange hard cased record player. It had a handle like a suitcase and could travel with me from room to room. I had the adapter for 45s or could play full size records. We had read along books where it would ding when it was time to turn the page, just like the old film or slide projectors. One of my favorites was Davy Crockett, to go along with the greatest Disney adventure movie ever! Records would scratch or melt in the sun and cassette tapes slowly took their place before cd's, digital downloads, and streaming music came along.

I am also from a very musical family and love all types of music. There was always some sort of music playing the house, be it instrumental, vocal, or store bought. Music filled the home. I believe music is very powerful and can be used to great effect. There is a time and place for classical, spiritual, country, rock, alternative, folk, bluegrass, broadway, and maybe even rap.

Our current home has a huge front room with vaulted ceilings. We decided to make the front section of that room our music corner. The piano is there and a violin and banjo hang opposite along with a print of a violin painting I first saw in the Smithsonian. But the wall above the piano was empty. It was too tall for a painting or picture.

So I decided to create a vinyl record wall. Using old records I got from the thrift store, and after much thought on how to execute, I used black nylon webbing straps. I bought a roll on Amazon, measured it to length and burned holes using a soldering iron. I attached the records with paper fasteners. I attached the bands to a strip of molding and mounting the molding to the wall. You can see the complete how to video on my YouTube channel.

It has been great fun to have people come over and look at the records. I have all genres and there are always a few that bring back a memory or two. Let me know what you think in the comments.

How to Make a Vinyl Record Wall


The Magic Floating Book Shelf

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I love books. I love reading. I love bookstores and libraries and covet homes with big floor to ceiling book shelves with a rolling ladder. One of the first things I do when I move to a new place is to sign up for a library card. I especially love old books. I love the smell of books and the feel of books. But books are heavy and books take up a lot of space. Books are hard to move around from place to place, especially if they are not being read regularly.

Then came e-readers. E-readers like the Kindle and Nook are awesome. You can fit thousands of books on a single device and the battery lasts forever. You can use a tablet, but the e-ink on an e-reader is easy on the eyes and can be read in bright sunlight just like a real book. I used to have the problem when I traveled for work of loading down my suitcase with books. If I was going to be away for a week I would have to pack four or five books in my suitcase. I couldn't afford to just buy new books, especially when there is a library full of free books at home. Now I can pack one device, smaller than the average paperback, and carry more books than I'll ever read on one trip. You lose the feel, smell, and experience of holding and reading a real book, but I can live with the trade off in convenience and size. I can check out e-books from the library even easier than going and checking out real books.

I'm also a big fan of the audiobook. Download a book from the library on your phone or MP3 player via the Overdrive app and you can make your commute enjoyable and educational. I'll get to the end of a long road trip and want to keep going because the book isn't done yet!

So how do I incorporate books into my home design and decorations? There are a certain number of antique books that I will never get rid of. Some were passed down from my parents or grandparents. Others are just cool books I have found at garage sales or thrift stores. They need to be displayed for others to see and enjoy. I can't keep good books hidden away on a shelf or in a closet. I also had some books that I knew I would never read again in paper format. If I do decide to revisit them, I'll load them onto my e-reader. Instead of throwing them away or recycling them, I decided to use them to build shelves. This design uses a hard back book and an “L” bracket to create a floating shelf. When other books are stacked on top, it creates the illusion that the books are floating on the wall. It is a great effect and has been a huge talking point for friends and neighbors visiting the house. It is a simple project requiring only the purchase of the bracket, a book, some glue, and some screws and can be made for well under $5.


Renting and DIY

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Due to the nature of my employment, we don't stay around in one place too long. And with the current nature of the economy and our other investments, it does not make sense for us to buy a new house every time we move. Not to mention it would be a huge headache to buy, finance, and sell every three or four years. We could keep the house and rent it out, but that brings up a whole slew of other problems. Having a successful lucrative rental also requires certain market conditions to even make it worth it. We have another huge issue keeping us from buying: we don't know where in the world we will finally settle down. So the common practice among my peers of buying your retirement home early and renting it out won't work. We have some ideas and we know where we don't want, but we haven't decided where we do want. What do they say about proving a negative?

I'm a DIY guy. When something breaks, I don't call someone. I fix it myself unless it is beyond my skill set. I always have plans on what I want to do in a house and it really sucks to be in a rental where I can't do anything without permission first. It is the major drawback to renting. In a previous house, the dishwasher was in horrible condition. We got the impression from the property manager that the owner was not interested in spending money replacing something that still worked (even if barely). We were not going to live in a house with an unworkable dishwasher for multiple years, so I went out and bought a new one and installed it. When the property manager came in and saw it, she freaked out! “He didn't agree to pay for that!” she cried.

I calmly tried to explain that I didn't care if he paid us back. I didn't buy it expecting to be paid back. If he chose to, awesome, but I was going to do it anyway. It was quite amusing. She couldn't wrap her head around the fact that someone would put money into a house he didn't own and expect nothing in return. From my perspective, even though I'm only there for a few years, it is still my home where my kids were going to grow up and where I would escape to after work. What man wants an inoperable dishwasher in his castle?? Not this one. In the end, the landlord ended up paying us back for the unit and our property manager trusted us implicitly from there on out.

I firmly believe that when you rent a place, you should leave it in better shape than you found it. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it ensures that you get good referrals when you move on and can always stay in higher end places. It also motivates the landlord to not raise your rent, because he doesn't want to lose such great tenants. It is worth a couple of hundred a month for the piece of mind that things will be taken care of and will be kept in good condition. If the biggest fear for landlords are horrible tenants, then the best way to allay those fears and make fast friends is to be an awesome tenant.

So how do I get my DIY fix in a home I don't own? My first rule is to not do anything that wouldn't have wide appeal. Only do things that are easily reversible. If the landlord doesn't like it, you can take it down or switch it back no problem. There is a project I will detail later on for a bay window bench. It is made to fit in that room, but can be removed easily if required. I also tend to make pieces that accent a room, but aren't a permanent part of the room. Use furniture, colors, and design to decorate a room when you can't use paint or wallpaper. If done properly, no one will even notice the room is painted the generic egg shell every landlord seems to use. Pillows, window treatments, shelves, and rugs can all be used to great advantage. And if you do get permission to paint, don't use wild colors that you will have to paint over before you leave. Use earth tones and other mild colors. You may get away with leaving it when you go.

Renting doesn't mean you can't have a “home”, only that you have to invest a little more thought into how you decorate the house to make it a home. Earn your landlord's trust and make wise design decisions and any rental can feel just as personalized as a house you own.

And a note to landlords everywhere: no more carpet!!! And if you insist on carpet, be prepared to re-carpet every 5-7 years. The worst is a landlord too cheap to install good carpet or replace bad carpet damaged by previous tenants or just from normal wear and tear. Part of owning a rental is putting money into it for upkeep. If you want good tenants, show you care about your property, because most tenants will only treat it as well as you do. And if we come knocking, fight for us; you will be glad you did!!