Toilet Repairs – Part 3 – Replacing the Overflow Tube and Flapper

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I’ve received a few emails and comments letting me know that some of you are going to try to repair your toilets! I just wanted to say, way to go! Plus, some of you had a few questions for me as well.

Here are the questions:

1. Our 1/2 bath toilet seems to chronically clog. We use enzyme stuff to clear it but it just clogs again the next time someone does anything substantial in it. It’s annoying. Any tips?

A. Adjust the amount of water in the tank so it will give more H20 to flush (as shown at the end of Toilet Repairs Part 2). Or use a good accordian style plunger:

If all else fails, you may have a clog and need to snake your toilet out. I’ve seen some snakes that attach to a drill.

Just be careful you don’t scratch the bottom of your toilet bowl when snaking it.

2. What are the symptoms for needing a new fill valve? On ours, you have to push the flush handle down really hard and hold it… or it won’t flush at all on first flush sometimes. Thanks for the great tutorials!

A. It sounds like you either need a new flapper or you might try tightening the chain between the flapper and the lever rod. If you need to replace the flapper, you should probably replace the entire overflow tube/flapper assembly.

And that leads me to today’s tutorial!

How to replace the overflow tube and flapper:

In review, here is what your toilet tank parts are:

And here is the kit I recommend you purchase (costs about $20):

And here are the tools you will need:

  • Plumber’s Wrench (must have a wide mouth opening. The Irwin pliers shown have just enough of an opening to work)
  • Adjustable Crescent Wrench
  • Handsaw (drywall, coping or hack saw will work. Needs to cut through PVC)
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Level
  • Scissors
  • Bucket or basin
  • Sponge
  • Rags or Towels
  • Rubber Gloves

Disclaimer: This tutorial is a general overview of replacing an overflow tube and flapper in your toilet tank. Be sure to follow the directions that come with your toilet parts as there may be changes or additional steps.

If you haven’t done so already, start by turning off the water. There should be a water shut off valve in the wall behind your toilet. Gently turn the knob clockwise to shut the valve.

Next, flush your toilet to drain the water from the tank. If your tank re-fills the water is not completely shut off.

Remove the lid to your tank. Set it in a safe place where it can’t get dropped and broken.

If there is still a lot of water in the bottom of the tank. Lift the flapper chain to drain the tank to the top of the flapper.

Use a sponge to completely soak up all the water remaining in the tank.

Once the tank is completely empty we can start to remove the overflow tube and flapper. But, first you need to disconnect the water supply tube. Because TODAY we are going to take the entire tank off! Don’t be freaked out, you can do this. It is just like unscrewing the screws and removing a light switch cover (only it weighs a lot more.)

Look underneath the tank to see where the water line feeds into the tank. Using pliers, loosen and then remove the coupling nut from the supply line.

One quick note about supply lines: If your toilet has a plastic or rubber supply line, you should consider replacing it with a braided metal supply line that is less prone to breaking or leaks (in other words they can cause a major flood!) The same advice applies to the water lines under your sink and definitely your clothes washer.

Place the basin or bucket underneath the supply line and gently remove the line from the bottom of the fill valve (gray threaded stem shown below.)

Detach the chain from the lever rod inside the tank.

Remove the rubber gasket by lifting up the sides of the flaps. If your gasket is attached a different way, don’t worry about it, just leave it attached.

Disconnect the water refill hose from the overflow tube by sliding the anchor hook up and off the overflow.

Use your flat head screwdriver to lose the bolts at the bottom of the tank (on either side of the flapper.) You may need to reach underneath and hold the nut (or wing nut) with pliers as the bolt begins to loosen.


Once the nut (or wing nut) has been removed, you can now lift the tank off the toilet (using both hands.) Ask for help if you are concerned about possibly dropping the tank.

I recommend draping a towel over the toilet seat lid to rest the tank onto.

Remove the rubber gasket in the center of the underside of your tank. You may want to wear gloves (not because of germs, but because the rubber may be deteriorating and can leave black on your hands. But, come to think about it, I have two little boys and their aim isn’t exactly spot on. If you know what I mean.)

Now you need to remove the two bolts that held the tank to the toilet base. Loosen the nut with the pliers or crescent wrench.

Remove the nut and washer.

Repeat to remove the other bolt.

Grab the pliers and loosen the large plastic hex nut that was under the gasket. Then remove the nut. (I’m very thankful that the Irwin Adjustable Hex pliers I have worked perfectly. Otherwise, I would have had to buy a pair of plumbing pliers.)

Now you can remove the overflow tube and flapper assembly from the tank.

If you are replacing all the parts in your tank at once, when the tank is empty is a great time to give it a good cleaning!

Okay, time to put Frankenstein back together again. Grab the new overflow tube and flapper assembly from your kit. Insert the new overflow tube back into the toilet tank. Make sure it is sitting flush against the bottom of the tank (you may need to tilt the tank for it to feed all the way through.) Then set your level up to the line indicated on the fill valve. Make a mark on the overflow tube one inch lower than the mark on the fill valve..

Cut the top of your overflow tube off using a saw. Sand any rough edges if necessary.

 

Re-insert the flush valve (overflow tube & flapper assembly) into the tank.

Thread the new hex nut onto the bottom of the overflow tube and hand tighten it.

Because I don’t possess the masculine type strength, I use my pliers to turn the hex nut another half a turn until it is snug but not tight enough to crack the tank.

Fit the new rubber gasket over the hex nut as shown below.

Insert two new bolts into the tank with a rubber washer just below the head of the bolt.

Thread a metal washer and a nut onto the bolts from the underside of the tank.

Gently tighten the nut with the crescent wrench. I can’t stress enough how important it is not to overtighten the nut. Or you will crack your toilet tank.

Repeat the same steps to insert the other bolt. The bottom of your tank should look like this:

Carefully replace the tank back onto the toilet base. Being sure to line up the bolts with the holes on the toilet.

Set a level on top of the tank and level it.

Thread the rubber washer, metal washer and then the new wing nut onto the bottom of the bolt. Tighten the wing nuts on both sides. All the while keep an eye on the tank to make sure it stays level.

Attach the flapper chain back onto the lever rod. Make sure there is a slight amount of slack in the chain, but not too much. Trim any excess chain that hangs too close to the flapper.

Attach the water refill hose to the over flow tube by sliding the anchor clip back onto the overflow tube..

Re-attach the water supply line making sure the coupling nut is nice and snug.

Turn on the water supply to refill the tank. Test the toilet by flushing it. Make sure the flapper closes and nothing holds it open. Replace the tank lid and enjoy your fully functioning toilet!

Hey, thanks for sticking with me through this “ugly” but necessary tutorial series. Hopefully I haven’t scared you off (judging from the very few comments I received.) I promise I have some more “attractive” tutorials coming soon. Then you can bring back your wonderfully sweet comments.

Toilet Repairs – Part 2 – Replacing the Fill Valve

Remove_lock_nut_from_fillvalve

Hey, you came back! So glad you weren’t scared off by my toilet repair post. Well, congratulations to you for sticking with me and wanting to learn how to fix your toilet.

In Part 1 we learned how to replace the flush lever. If you found it easy, I know you won’t find today’s tutorial too difficult. And then, you will certainly be able to replace the overflow tube and flapper in my next post.

In review, here is what your toilet tank parts are:

Here is the kit I recommend you purchase (costs about $20):

And here are the tools you will need:

  • Plumber’s Wrench (must have a wide mouth opening. The Irwin pliers shown have just enough of an opening to work)
  • Adjustable Crescent Wrench
  • Handsaw (drywall, coping or hack saw will work. Needs to cut through PVC)
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Level
  • Scissors
  • Bucket or basin
  • Sponge
  • Rags or Towels
  • Rubber Gloves

Disclaimer: This tutorial is a general overview of replacing a fill valve in your toilet tank. Be sure to follow the directions that come with your toilet parts as there may be changes or additional steps.

If you haven’t done so already, start by turning off the water. There should be a water shut off valve in the wall behind your toilet. Gently turn the knob clockwise to shut the valve.

Next, flush your toilet to drain the water from the tank. If your tank re-fills the water is not completely shut off.

Remove the lid to your tank. Set it in a safe place where it can’t get dropped and broken.

If there is still a lot of water in the bottom of the tank. Lift the flapper chain to drain the tank to the top of the flapper.

Use a sponge to completely soak up all the water remaining in the tank.

Once the tank is completely empty we can start to remove the fill valve. Look underneath the tank to see where the water line feeds into the tank. Using pliers, loosen and then remove the coupling nut from the supply line.

One quick note about supply lines: If your toilet has a plastic or rubber supply line, you should consider replacing it with a braided metal supply line that is less prone to breaking or leaks (in other words they can cause a major flood!) The same advice applies to the water lines under your sink and definitely your clothes washer.

Place the basin or bucket underneath the supply line and gently remove the line from the bottom of the fill valve (gray threaded stem shown below.)

Remove the washer holding the fill valve to the tank.

Inside the tank, locate the small rubber hose that attaches the fill valve to the overflow tube. Then disconnect the hose as shown below.

Now you should be able to lift the fill valve up and out of the tank.

Place the new fill valve into the tank where the old one was. Notice the sleek new design, No Float Ball!

Side Note: You may need to adjust the height of the fill valve to fit in your tank.  If so, twist the top portion of the valve independent of the bottom half. (After you fill the tank, you can raise or lower the valve the same way if you need to adjust the height of the fill valve.)

Thread the new washer onto the bottom of the fill valve where it extends out the bottom of the tank.


Gently tighten the washer, but be careful not to overtighten, or you might break the tank.


Next thread the coupling nut back onto the bottom of the fill valve to secure the water line.


Add the fill valve water hose onto the side of the fill valve. Then measure the distance to the top of the flush valve. Leave an extra inch, and trim any excess hose.


Find the  anchor clip that attaches the hose to the overflow tube.


Slide the hose onto the clip and attach it with a hose clamp (if included with your kit).


Attach another hose clamp to the end of the hose where it meets the fill valve. Slide the anchor clip onto the top of the overflow tube. The hose should be free of kinks and should arch up as shown.


Before you turn the water back on, you need to flush the fill valve to rid it of any foreign matter. Twist the top of the fill valve counter clockwise and lift up to release it.


Place a bucket or cup directly over the top of the fill valve. This will re-direct the water that is going to spray straight up out of the fill valve.


Gently turn on the water supply while holding the bucket. Let it run for a few seconds, then turn it off again.


Replace the cap of the fill valve by setting the cap back on top and then twist the cap clockwise. Make sure it is on securely. Then turn the water supply back on.

While the tank is filling, press down on the float cup until it is submerged under water for 30 seconds. Then release. Now you can adjust the water level adjustment screw until the water in the tank is about 1″ lower than the top of the overflow tube.

Test your toilet by flushing it a few times. Does it work?! Hooray! You’ve now replaced 2/3 of your toilet tank parts. Next up, how to replace the overflow tube and flapper assembly.

Toilet Repairs – Part 1 – Replacing the Lever

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I hope you enjoyed my photos from Scotland! On our tour of Mary King’s Close we learned about life in Edinburgh before the toilet was invented. It was definitely not a pretty time in the city’s history. People literally dumped their pails of waste into the streets of Edinburgh and the sludge ran down the streets and into the loch (lake). They were only allowed to dump the pails early or late in the day after the street vendors were gone and the streets were less crowded. Then they opened their doors or window and threw out the sludge yelling, “gardyloo” loosely translated as “watch out for the water!” How thoughtful of them. But, people would still slip and fall in the muck coated walkways.

Back then the saying about Edinburgh was that you could smell it before you could see it.

Thank goodness the toilet was invented! Go now and hug your porcelain bowls. Okay, well you don’t have to, but be thankful for your loo.



Did you know that a leaky or malfunctioning toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons of water per day, that is over 70,000 gallons of water in a year! Yikes!

If you have a leaking toilet or one that doesn’t shut off I encourage you to fix it yourself! Yes, you can do this, no need to hire a plumber.

First, for anyone concerned about putting their hands in “crap water”, let me reassure you that all the repairs I am going to show you are in the tank and the tank holds clean water that is then used to flush the toilet. So, no need to worry about contaminated water. That isn’t to say that the tank won’t have mineral deposits or black residue in it. This is a result of the break down of the rubber gasket or hard water deposits, so you may want to don some rubber gloves.

Over the next few days I will show you how to replace everything in your tank. I HIGHLY recommend purchasing an entire tank repair kit and replace all the parts at once. It will save you time and money, because if one part of your tank is going bad, the others are likely to follow close behind.

Complete Toilet Repair Kits cost about $20

Today we will get your feet wet (no pun intended) by replacing the handle also known as the flush lever. Then I will show you how to replace the fill valve and finally how to replace the overflow tube and flapper assembly.

But, before we begin, you will need a few tools (tools shown are for a full repair job.)

  • Plumber’s Wrench (must have a wide mouth opening)
  • Adjustable Crescent Wrench
  • Handsaw (drywall, coping or hack saw will work. Needs to cut through PVC)
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Level
  • Scissors
  • Bucket or basin
  • Sponge
  • Rags or Towels
  • Rubber Gloves

Ready? Well, let’s begin! Start by turning off the water. There should be a water shut off valve in the wall behind your toilet. Gently turn the knob clockwise to shut the valve.

Next, flush your toilet to drain the water from the tank. If your tank re-fills the water is not completely shut off.

Remove the lid to your tank. Set the lid in a safe place where it can’t be dropped or broken.

Inside the tank, opposite the lever, is a lock nut that holds the lever in place.


Using your pliers, gently loosen the nut and then remove the lock nut by hand. Just a little note: the nut may turn in the opposite direction than you would expect.

Remove the flapper chain from the end of the rod attached to the lever.


Remove the old flush lever and replace it with the new one.

Thread the lock nut back onto the new lever. Gently tighten the lock nut, but not too much. Over tightening could result in a cracked tank.


Replace the flapper chain on the new lever rod (picture below shows two chains, but you may only have one.) Adjust the chain so there is a slight amount of slack in the chain. Remove any excess chain that could get caught in the flapper (but leave an inch or two on the chain for adjustments).


Turn the water back on and let the tank fill.


Test the lever by depressing it. Replace the tank lid and test it again making sure that the flush lever rod doesn’t hit the top of the tank lid before lifting the flapper. Once it flushes properly, you are done!
That wasn’t hard, was it? Stay tuned as I show you how to replace the fill valve and finally how to replace the overflow tube and flapper assembly!

 

The Lettered Cottage

 

Scotland – Country Vistas

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While in Edinburgh, we took a sunset hike up to the top of Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park. We were literally still in Edinburgh, but the photos belie their proximity to the city.

At the summit we had a fabulous view of the Firth of Fourth (say that 10 times fast!)

A brief shower fell on us during the hike, but it wasn’t enough to get us wet. And it yielded two beautiful rainbows!

Some other stunning vistas can be viewed atop Calton Hill in Edinburgh. Hard to believe all this beauty is just footsteps away from downtown.

The second day in Scotland Pretty Handsome Guy and I rented a car and ventured outside the city into the incredibly beautiful countryside of Scotland. We wanted to be well rested for the terror challenge of driving on the “wrong side of the road!”

Talk about confusing, and then add some comical road signs to create a true driving adventure. By the way, I hear those red squirrels are really dangerous carjackers!

But, the white knuckles were well worth it once we arrived in Ben Lawers, a nature preserve near Loch Tay and Killin. The vistas were unrivaled! Truly amazing scenery.

It was so beautiful in Ben Lawers, that we were hesitant to leave. So, we found a nice soft patch of grass and took a short nap.

Once we got back to the car, we were greeted by some locals. It was funny watching the mamas. The minute they stopped moving, their little ones took it as a signal that it was snack time. Not much different for us human mamas is it?

The little town of Killin boasts an amazing intersection of waterfalls, named the Falls of Dochart. The sound is deafening, but the experience is exhilarating.

The homes in the small villages of Scotland are simply adorable. Tell me you wouldn’t love to move into this little cottage!

Or how about this carriage house?

As we looped back around the countryside towards Edinburgh, the stunning vistas continued to pop up on either side of the road.
And now a few words of wisdom while traveling in Scotland:
  1. You will gain weight no matter how much walking you do! These devilishly tempting shortbread squares are everywhere!
2. Just because you have an UK outlet converter doesn’t mean you can plug any old US appliance into the outlet. (I’m not saying exactly who’s hairdryer fried the circuit in our hotel room. Mum’s the word!)
3. Street performers do not like having their pictures taken unless you put money in their hats first. (I spared you the “finger” shot of one particularly perturbed performer.)
4. Bring extra memory cards and batteries on your trip. At 1500 pictures, I used two cards and two complete battery charges.
Be prepared to spend some £ (british pounds). The shops are jam packed with lovely goodies.
Flavored Oils
A Nessie hat, anyone? Only £6 (or about $11 US).
I think you can say that the “Keep Calm and Carry On” craze has officially exploded:
And Beth, just in case you were wondering, the owl trend is in full swing in Scotland too!

Scotland – City Scenes

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So, if you noticed that I’ve been a little MIA in the DIY world, it is because my true love and I snuck away for a special 15th anniversary trip to:

It is by far the most beautiful place I’ve been yet. Rolling green hills, blue-purple skies, and fields of yellow crops – Oh MY!

I took 1500 pictures, so it was really tough narrowing them down to just a few.  I’ve decided to break my photos into two different posts (so your browser wouldn’t break!): City Views and Country Vistas.

If you will come along with me…Return your seats and tray tables to their upright positions as we prepare for landing. Next stop Edinburgh, Scotland!

A city where its castle clings to the rocky remains of a volcano.

And street performers entertain from doorways along the Royal Mile and…

…bag pipers who quite literally provide a soundtrack for walks around the city. It was truly surreal hearing the crooning tones of the bag pipes while walking around Scotland!

Flowers and fauna who defy mother nature by growing in the cracks of rock.

Ornate architectural details drape over every building.


Edinburgh (pronounced Ed-en-bur-uh) is a relatively small city, but it has such regal stature.

Regal details including gold encrusted down spouts at Edinburgh Castle!

My favorite trait about this quaint city is its unique color palette. Stores are painted with bright crayon colors.

Not to be outdone, Princes Street Garden is packed full of colorful flowers.

Scottish are known for:
Whiskey – they take it very seriously! These are all leather encased bottles of Whiskey.

Beef. They also take their meat seriously, right down the maturity and {ahem} well-hung-ness.

Men in kilts! (I have no idea about their well-hung-ness, because I didn’t ask. So you will have to go yourself one day and ask what lies beneath the kilts.)
The handsome young men of Scotland are proud to wear their heritage around their waists. We saw a group of college age pals renting a car for the weekend and they all had kilts on (and very muscular legs!)

The people of Scotland were very nice (at least I think they were being nice.) The wonderfully thick Scottish accent was hard to understand at times. But luckily facial expressions are universal.

As we finished our day touring Edinburgh, we were treated to beautiful sunset views from Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park.

 


The amazing thing about Scotland is that it stayed light until 9:40pm.
The moon rises well before nightfall.

Ladder Display Shelves

As you are reading this I’m on my way back from a long weekend getaway with Pretty Handsome Guy. I took loads of pictures to share with you at a later date. I didn’t want to say anything ahead of time (you know, for safety reasons), but now I can tell you that we were out of the country! Just the two of us! Yippee!

So, do you want to know where? You’ll just have to guess, but I’ll give you one clue: Nessie.

Anyway, I was under a strict no-computer policy, so I thought I’d repost an older tutorial that I created for sweet Kate aka Centsational Girl back in November. I hope you enjoy.

I know you’ve seen them, those adorable book shelves that look like ladders. I really wanted one.  But, the price tags were enough to send me running from the store with my purse gripped tightly in my hands. I mean, really? $299 for one unit!

When I saw this ladder at the Habitat ReStore for $15 I knew it had the potential to fulfill my ladder shelf dreams.

The skeptical cashier tried to persuade me not to buy the ladder, warning me not to climb on it because it was too rickety.

Who cares about rickety, I was in love with the paint splashes all over it!

So, I hauled the old ladder home (and received funny looks along the way because it was hanging several feet out the back of my car.) Little did they know that I was about to transform that old ladder.

Tutorial for Building Ladder Shelves:

Start by measuring the width of each step (and subtract 1/8″ to account for the slant of the ladder.)

Use 1″x10″ pine boards (or any depth you choose.) Lucky for me, I had some leftover shelves from my coat rack and shoe bench.

Cut them down to size on a miter saw or ask the lumber store to cut them for you. Yes, it was a total coincidence that my boards were covered in paint splotches too!

Dry fit the boards to make sure they fit your ladder. My heart was thumping now because I could really see the project taking shape!

Next cut some 1″ x 2″ strips the same width as each shelf. These are for the backs of your shelves. If necessary stain your shelves or paint them to match your ladder.

To attach the strips to the back of the shelves, use some Gorilla Glue…

…and then screw or nail the 1″x2″ pieces securely to the shelves. I chose to use a pneumatic nailer (but who wouldn’t if they have one lying around.)

Choose the depth you want your shelves to extend beyond your ladder. Then using a carpenter square or ruler, mark a line on all the shelves. I chose a 3″ overlapping depth.

Use a drill to pre-drill three holes per ladder rung.

Turn your ladder upside down and set the screws inside the holes.

Line up your pencil lines on the shelf to your ladder step.

Using one hand to support the shelf (or better yet get a helper to hold it), drive the screws into the bottom of each shelf.

Repeat the process for all the shelves.

Then flip the ladder back over and admire!

$15 for the ladder and no cost for the materials I had on hand. Much better than $299 and the best part is mine is charmingly rustic.

It looks great on my beach inspired screen porch. But, this beauty would look good anywhere in your home.

The minnow trap hanging pendant lights up my treasures on the shelves.

So what do you think? Do you like it? I bet you could build one for yourself.Oh, I almost forgot, if you are wondering what I did with the back of the ladder. Take a peek here.

Have a great week! I’ll be back soon. ;-)

Photography Secrets for Shooting in Your Home

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I’m not sure what I ever did to annoy Mother Nature, but it seems to me that every time I finish a project and need to photograph it, the weather turns ugly. Case in point: my cake stand was completed the day the tornadoes ripped through North Carolina.

3" of water flooding our front walk after the tornado.

But, rather than be deterred by some nasty weather, I decided to use a few tricks I learned from some professional photographers I’ve worked with over the years. And, from a few photography blogs like:

iHeartFaces.com and EverydayElementsOnline.com and My3Boybarians.

One trick I learned was how to bounce the light back onto the subject. To light the underside of the cake stand, I set a mirror next to the cake stand and angled it to reflect the light onto the bottom of the stand. I was careful not to let a strong highlight hit on the stand from the reflection.

Next I used a foam core board propped up against a chair. I positioned the board back and forth until I saw the light brightening the cake stand and dessert.

With just those two changes I was able to change my cake stand photo from this:

to this! Va va vooom!

Another trick I use while shooting some of my tutorials is to use two pieces of foam core to get a professional looking white background.

Sometimes if I’m feeling very perfectionist, I’ll use Photoshop to edit my photos. To erase the seam, I selected a color that is midway between the foreground and background foam core.

Then, I used the airbrush tool to paint out the seams that stand out.

Sometimes I really want to photograph a still life in an environment. Take my spray-painted bottles for example:

Whoa, that is one dark and dreary photo. Once again, I had finished the project and the clouds rolled in. So, here is how I dealt with fickle Mother Nature.

I put the bottles in the window to capture as much natural light as I could. Then, I backed away from my subjects and zoomed in with my lens. Next, I used a flash (egads, not a flash!) Yes, I used a flash, but I have the ability to change the flash exposure in my camera so it wouldn’t wash out the subject. And because I was far back from the vases, the flash wasn’t as harsh.

And here is the resulting photo!

I wouldn’t say it is perfect by any standards, but the photos look much more appealing. Don’t you think?

(At the time that I took the above photos, I didn’t have this great flash gadget. However, recently I ordered a Light Scoop and I love how it bounces the flash off the ceiling instead of the object. This is an inexpensive alternative to buying an external flash.)

To head off the inevitable camera question: I currently use a Canon T1i Rebel (SLR). However, I before I bought the Rebel I used a simple point and shoot camera and made some edits in Photoshop to compensate for the cheaper camera.

First I select Auto Tone and if I’m happy with the changes PS made, I move on to the Auto Contrast.

To make the colors more vivid, I play with the Vibrancy and Saturation Settings:

Finally, to give the details that crisp focus look, I add the Sharpen filter:

There are oodles of other fixes that Photoshop can perform on your photos, but these are the ones I use the most.

Do you have any photography tips or tricks? I’d love to hear them.

My friend Megan (Honey We’re Home) has a great post all about using your SLR! Check it out HERE.

Random Thoughts of a Handy Girl

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Every so often, I’m at a loss for words. It doesn’t happen often (ask Pretty Handsome Guy). But, this week, I’ve been project dry. Too many other commitments I guess.

However, I have had a few non-DIY things that I’ve been meaning to share. So, I put together a little lite post just for those random thoughts.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Pretty Handsome Guy surprised me by making Sweet Potato Pancakes drizzled with my favorite chocolate from Escazú (our local chocolatier) and with chocolate dipped strawberries on the side. He REALLY knows the way to my heart.

I’ve been preparing for a sprint triathlon that will happen (with or without me) in two weeks. It is the Ramblin’ Rose, a women’s empowerment triathlon. This will be my third year participating in a sprint tri (notice how I said participate, because I sign up to complete not compete!)

2010 Ramblin' Rose Triathlon, Raleigh, NC

I’m a bit tentative about it this year because that sinus infection, plus lots of travel, have put a dent in my training regime. The good news is that I completed the bike/run portion on Mother’s Day so I’m feeling a little more confident. I’m not worried about the swim, I have become a good swimmer over the past three years. This is a direct result of training for my first triathlon in 2009. Believe me when I tell you I had never swum a lap in my life! Now I can swim for an hour and I LOVE IT!

Let’s see, what else did I want to share…oh right…two new iPhone apps I like.

Pinterest for iPhone! I seriously jumped out of my chair when I saw the announcement about this app.

Finally a Pinterest app so I can add “pins” while I’m browsing on my phone. Love it.

And if you know about Angry Birds (and simultaneously love and hate them as much as I do), you will appreciate this new children’s book that can be read to or read by your kids on your iPhone (or iPad).

Otto the Otter by Ian Mehr. This is a great little story about an otter who can’t swim. It is currently Free for download, but I suspect it will cost something in the near future. Considering I spent $2.99 on several Cat in the Hat book apps, this was a steal! I’m all about giving my boys something educational to occupy them instead of an extremely addictive video game.

Speaking of great ideas for the kids. I also wanted to tell you about Synonym Toast, a great new CD by Jeff Warren.

The CD is not your traditional kiddie music. I actually don’t mind listening to it because – well frankly – it ROCKS!. My boys can’t get enough of it. They have listened to this CD over 20 times each. My oldest’s favorite song is Rocket. I wonder if it has anything to do with the time we did THIS!

Hmm, searching my memory banks, please wait…ahhh yes, the last thing I wanted to share with you is that I had a fabulous weekend in my favorite town in America: Charlottesville, Va. We spent time with friends, went on a hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and most importantly I was able to purchase this:

That is a Mocha with Whip from my favorite coffee shop on the downtown mall, the Mudhouse. Oh, real chocolate shavings on my coffee, how I do miss thee! Okay, I’m drooling and now you know I truly am a Chocoholic. I even have a shirt that says: “Forget Love, I’d Rather Fall in Chocolate!”

I’m signing off now (as it seems this post has come full circle back to chocolate), but I hope to be back with a tutorial or two later in the week.

A Tribute to My Mom

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My Mom and Me Last Weekend

I think it is about time that you got to meet the woman that raised me and made me who I am today. She is one special woman that is like no other person I have ever met.

She is my mom:

and she is one phenomenal woman!

She’s strong and fearless.

Mom stepping into a frigid Canadian lake

She birthed five children naturally without any meds or epidurals. She was my role model when I gave birth to my two boys.

She still views the world through a child’s eyes. Which makes her a fabulous grandmother.

Pointing out sea gulls to her grandson.

She always puts others before herself. When we visit her she feeds us like Kings and she always gives up her bed for us. (We used to protest, but finally gave up years ago.)

Mom reading my son Family Handyman and rocking him to sleep so I could get a nap.

She is resourceful and creative. When I was growing up, my Mom didn’t go to the store to buy our Halloween costumes. She made them herself and she never told us, “I can’t make that. Pick another costume.” It became a challenge each year to see if we could stump her creativity. But, we never could.

Can you tell which one is me? I'll give you a hint: Oooga, grunt, grunt.

She has serious snow skills (from growing up in Upstate New York.) We thought our Mom was the coolest because she not only knew how to make snowmen, she also knew how to make snow horses that we could ride on! Giddy-up.

Me and my sister on our snow horse.

She is relaxed and laid back. Our Mom never seemed to sweat the messes we made, in fact it seemed that she encouraged them in the name of good dirty clean fun.

Baking pies in our kitchen.

My Mom has a great sense of humor. She taught us how to laugh at own mistakes and shrug it off. She taught us that laughter really is the best medicine.

Christmas cracker crowns

 

My Mom is also über talented! These are just a few of my favorite paintings that she has painted:

Sacred Ohana by Shari MacFarlane

Blue Ridge by Shari MacFarlane

Oh Pears by Shari MacFarlane

See what I mean? Isn’t she talented! You can view more of her paintings and shop her online store HERE.

I am so lucky to have the best mother in the entire world. I’m so proud of her and I hope she has a fantastic Mother’s Day!

My beautiful mother.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to the rest of you moms out there. I leave you with this very funny (and sadly true) music video:

You can thank my Mom for posting that video on her Facebook wall. Yup, she uses Facebook, I told you she was amazing!

Spray Painted Glass Jars and Bottles

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I have a real problem throwing away perfectly good glass jars and bottles. To me they are little craft gems waiting for me to transform them. With Mother’s Day and Teacher Appreciation coming up, I decided to turn some of our recycled bottles into cute gifts for Mom and my sons’ teachers.

Before you begin this project, I want to warn you to be flexible. The painting step has the potential to get messed up, but that doesn’t mean the project has to be a failure. I’ll show you how I fixed one of the bottles that didn’t turn out as I had planned.

Materials:

  • Glass Bottles or Jars
  • Spray Paint
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Plastic Bags
  • Masking or Painter’s Tape
  • Drop Cloth, Tarp or Plastic
  • Foam Stickers
  • X-acto Knife
  • Pencil
  • Embellishments: beads, transfer rub-ons, wire, fabric, ribbon, raffia, lace, or whatever you have lying around
  • Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

Instructions:

Clean out the bottles/jars and let them dry completely. Save the lids if you want to cap off them off.

Select some foam stickers to use as a mask on your bottle.

I chose a heart and then cut an “M” into a circle foam sticker using an X-acto knife. (Remember to cut your letters in reverse.)

If the bottle neck is narrow, use the X-acto knife to feed the sticker into the jar.

Then use a pencil or stick to firmly press the sticker to the inside of the jar.

Wrap your bottle in a plastic bag and then tape the bag to the neck of the jar/bottle.

Set the bottles in a tarped area or box.

Put on some rubber gloves and insert the spray paint nozzle into the jar. Spray a layer of paint into the jar.

Wait a few minutes and repeat. The paint will be liquid, so rotate the bottles and jars to spread the paint around. Then turn the jars upside down to dry.

After the paint has dried (several hours), gently remove the foam sticker with the X-acto knife.

If a little paint has dripped into your masked area, you might be able to scrape it off with the X-acto. One of the stickers (jar shown on the right side below) didn’t adhere, and the paint bled underneath the sticker. But, no worries, it can easily been fixed.


Time to get out your embellishment scraps. Ribbons, lace, rub on decals, beads, etc. Anything goes!

To fix the drippy paint jar, I rubbed on a few decals to cover the messed up heart mask.

I added some wire and beads to the collar. And presto, a cute pencil holder!

Use a hot glue gun to glue beaded string on your bottles. I added the trim around the collar and around the heart shape on this bottle. Then, I added another rub on decal.

And, voila, a beautiful flower vase!

To create a cute bottle top, try gluing batting, fabric, lace and a ribbon to the lid.

Wrap up a small present inside some tissue paper and inserted it the bottle. Or write a little heart felt note and slip it inside.

I included a battery powered tea light, it made a beautiful votive gift. The jars are so beautiful when lit up, don’t you think?

You can also try spraying the exterior of a few bottles. They don’t have the same shiny luminous look, but they will still be beautiful none-the-less.

Do tell me, what other ideas do you have using these glass jars and bottles? I’d love to hear!

Take a look at some other attractive ways to reuse recycled bottles and jars?

 

 

Dejavú – April in Review

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For those of you who have been busy this past month here is a review of the projects I shared in April. Speaking of busy, I’ve been trying to cram a months worth of visiting into 3 days. It hasn’t been easy, but at least I got to see my family yesterday:

My mom with her five kids and two (out of three, soon to be four) grandkids.

I’m looking forward to May and have lots more to share with you.

How NOT to Replace an Escutcheon

Removing Door, Knobs, Latches and Hinges

How to Paint Doors – The Professional Way

Painting Like a Pro – Step 1 – Prep Work

Painting Like a Pro – Step 2 - Paint and Sheen

Painting Like a Pro – Step 3 – Painting and Touch Ups

My Bird House Received the COA!!!

Do You Have a Public Alert Radio?

 

Guest Post: Vintage Hook Frame

Vintage Soap Sign Download

Spring Vignettes and Mantle Décor

Making a Citrus Striped Cake Stand

Fixing Common Door Problems

Three Days in England

Bread Crate Display Shelf – Guest Posting at Positively Splendid

Hanging Objects on a Wall

 

I hope you come back soon for some new tutorials in May!

Giveaway from Creative Kristi

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We just spent a wonderful weekend in Charlottesville, VA. The weather was AMAZING and we enjoyed catching up with many friends.

Now I’m sitting in my mom’s living room with my Mom and my two sisters in Vienna, VA. Tomorrow we’re headed to Lucketts, VA to check out Miss Mustard Seed’s new shop there.

I have another fabulous giveaway for you this week! If you have a blog or wish to start one, you will want to pay attention to this giveaway.

My friend Kristi (aka Creative Kristi) is graciously offering one reader a full blog design with one commercial use image/illustration purchase to be included. Normally the client pays for all purchased graphics but she will include one for the giveaway (up to a $20 value.)

The full blog design includes:

  • Custom header
  • Custom navigation bar (self-hosted WordPress & blogger)
  • Custom social media icons/buttons
  • Custom sidebar titles
  • Custom post signature (self-hosted WordPress & blogger)
  • Custom blog button
  • Custom background
  • Favicon
  • Plus, installation!

If the winner has a self-hosted WordPress blog, she will install the Headway theme for free.

Let’s say you don’t win, luckily Kristi is offering my readers $10 off any full blog redesign if you sign up on her blog design page and mention “PrettyHandyGirl10″ in the message section. That is $50 for a new blog design! I can’t even begin to tell you what a DEAL that is! This offer is valid until May 30, 2011.
Here are a few samples of Kristi’s work:

I just love this adorable design:

This design is a header for a shop:

And I saved my favorite for last:

 

Here is how you can enter to win a free blog design from Creative Kristi
(Up to four chances to win. One chance per comment):

1. Leave a comment on this post telling me that you want to win.

2. Take a look at Creative Kristi’s other blog designs and leave a comment here telling me which one is your favorite.

3. Mention this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you did.

4. Become one of Creative Kristi’s followers and leave another comment here letting me know you are following her (or already were.)

Get your comments posted sometime between now and Saturday, May 7th at midnight EST.