Category Archives: DIY

Something Old, Something Renewed

Erika gave me the old tea lamp. I revived it, putting a glass column inside it and wrapping multicolored fairy lights around the core. I went to bed before the sunset last night and was unable to witness its premiere. Not to mention that I forgot to turn it on so that the photosensitive light would trigger automatically so that I might see it when I woke up ridiculously early. Color, color, and more color. X

DIY Fresheners

Because I want to, I will start with a random weird fact: the first McDonald’s Drive-Thru was created for military customers who weren’t allowed to be in public in their uniforms. I’m guessing nudity wasn’t an option.

Pre-emptive Intro: Look at those retro Elvis sunglasses! Feel free to submit my pictures as a visual for a “douche photo.” Even I cringe and laugh when I see it.

Listen, I know y’all are rich.

This means you don’t like your place smelling like dog farts or cat tootsie rolls. If you’re married to a man, you should be accustomed to it. If you have teenage boys, you might as well live in an Army dorm.

As noted philosopher SpongeBob said: “I smell the smelly smell of something that smells smelly.”

You can make really cheap do-it-yourself Febreze.

If you don’t love throwing money out, make your spouse or teenagers make the stuff for you at home. You can make it for much less than half a dollar a bottle. And it works just the same.

It’s not as cheap as a clothespin on one’s nose.

Febreze isn’t good for birds or Venezuelan Poodle Moth (which is real, and you should look it up!), but it’s pretty safe with all other animals. People with respiratory issues of any kind already know to be careful around this type of product. A lot of the commercial cleaners you buy can be replaced with simple things you make at home. I’ve noted that many homeowners wait until they need a flamethrower to clean some areas.

Most of the things you need for a basic homemade Febreze are already in your house. If not, your neighbor probably leaves their door unlocked, which is tantamount to implicit permission to borrow liberally from them.

Fabric softener, baking soda, alcohol, essential oils. You don’t need ALL those. There are various competing recipes on the internet. The ones which use fabric softener, white vinegar, a bit of alcohol, and water are the easiest. You can search for it using your favorite privacy-robbing web browser.

“Cleaning is putting stuff in less obvious places.” To which I’d reply: “Turn off the lights, and suddenly the mess disappears.”

Having said all that, do you know what works the best because it attacks odors at its source? Vinegar and water at mostly equal concentrations. Yes, the strong initial smell might throw people off, but it does a much better job after the application dissipates, as it attacks a lot of bacteria, something Febreze and knockoffs don’t. The smell will disappear. But so will a lot of what is causing the odors in the first place.

“Everybody wants to save the earth; no one wants to help mom do the dishes.”
P.J. O’Rourke

Did you know that psychologically speaking, just spraying something that smells like a cleaner often gives a person a mental boost? It’s associative; the scent triggers a similar feeling to actually having cleaned. Even if you spray and then walk out on the patio and drink a cup of coffee.

If you make your own, you can make anywhere from 10-20 bottles for the price of one bottle of Febreze or a can of air freshener.

You can use the extra money you saved to buy something nice for yourself. Like one of those virus-zapping robots. It won’t remove the dust, but your dust will be germ-free.

Hint for bad housekeepers… remember some of my helpful tips. Hang underwear on the door, or leave a murder scene outline inside your front door and then apologize for the mess. Tell everyone the coroner just left. Either usually stops the Q&A or wrinkled noses as visitors enter your nest.


Penultimate Battle Regarding The Drug Shed

I waited for a day when I had enough pent-up energy to tackle what I knew would be the worst part of dismantling the drug shed behind my apartment simplex. I wore gloves this time (no, I didn’t on any of the previous battles) and used a regular claw hammer for the destructive part. It was loud as I grunted and hit the remaining support rails and metal with everything I had. It was therapeutic hitting that mess and watching it be reduced to its components. This time I didn’t worry about the noise or how ridiculous I looked – not that I ever do about the latter.

Instead of ants this go-around, it was mosquitoes. Hundreds of them. The torrential avalanche of insecticide I used on the ants after being attacked should have murdered anything crawling or flying back there. Wrong. I looked down at my sweat-soaked arm and saw no fewer than twenty on my right arm. I went inside and rubbed myself with oil. Naturally, I kept forgetting I was oil-soaked and got in on my face and just about everywhere else. Cleaning the bathtub after the shower was one of those things I should have thought out more clearly. There was one large black snake in the pile under the long strips of construction vinyl next to the fence. Just as I was about to reach down and swing it around by the tail and throw it across the fence, it slithered between the rusted chain links and escaped.

I filled about one-third of the dumpster with vinyl and trash; I have to meter out the quantity each time I use it.

I left every piece of metal out that I could. There’s a metal scavenger who frequents my dumpster. I reward his efforts in any way that I can. This year, he’s made a fortune in water heaters and air conditioners. Most of the ones here are from the 1970s.

The stout metal frame covered in rotted wood remains. It taunts me. Given that I made it this far, I’m going to remove every vestige of that horrible shed. Even if it kills me.

I sweated and felt my heart race for a solid hour. Though it fatigued me in one way, it also brought a sense of accomplishment. It’s pretty idiotic to feel happy about doing something that should have been done years ago. And by the people who own the place.

All these cleanup projects I’ve done are a testament to the law of increments.

It’s a good reminder and one I needed today


Return Of The Ugly Fence

Return Of The Ugly Fence

My pet dinosaur Redactyl sits looking out the suddenly barren fence line in the background. I know he will have a lot to say about it. He’s stuck staring at a lifeless, dilapidated scene now. Color once brightened his perspective.

I’m conflicted. I spent countless hours meticulously assembling the decorations for the longest fence where I live.

Nothing is permanent.

It was great fun, finding pieces and creative ways to use things that aren’t intended to be used in the way I chose.

It was also a lot of work. Work that put me in the zone and challenged me to keep going.

I heard nothing but delight from everyone about how much color and character it added to this ugly apartment complex and the area. Friends drove by or over to see it. Several people posted pictures of it on social media without me realizing it until much later. That made me smile.

This is precisely the kind of place that needs and needed color and something wild and different. Otherwise, it’s just a plot of land and a container that many find temporary.

Two days ago, in a blaze of adrenaline, I began to take the tiles, metal pieces, and assorted decorations off. It led to my shorts’ pockets being so heavy they were about to fall off, which led to the dreaded keys-in-the-dumpster incident. Hundreds of screws, washers, tiles, and assorted pieces. I wasn’t mad, but the disappointment grew as I looked at the fence. But seeing it this morning in the dim light made it dreadfully plain and lifeless. Nothing is permanent; I kept telling myself. But in the back of my mind, I wondered about minds so small they have to complain. 1% of me negatively reacted, given how much work and cleanup I’ve put into this place. We’re supposed to do that sort of thing without expectations.

On the other hand, I put in a proportional amount of work apart from the countless hours I spent brightening up the place. Most of my neighbors don’t do their share to keep the place better than they found it. It’s disappointing that someone took the time to complain they weren’t happy. Some people aren’t happy no matter what – and unfortunately, some take delight in ruining other people’s happiness. The problem with such people is that they will never be satisfied; they thrive on such effort. They are dramavores.

I will redirect my urge to color and brighten to something else in small places and wherever I roam. I’ve left dozens of decorations and pieces all over.

When people ask, “Oh my god, X, what happened to your art project on the fence?” I’m going to shrug and attribute it to the impermanence of everything. For a few weeks, it was something to behold. The entropy resulting from complaining took its price.

Now, as I look out onto the fence I repaired out of my pocket and with my labor, I see an ugly board fence, looking out onto a dismal parking lot. I think it traps us rather than keeps others out, especially now that an expensive home is being built on the small lot between us and the trail cut-through from Gregg.

In my head, though? I can’t look at the fence without imagining it filled with color.

As places like that should be.

I’ll put up a single tile in the middle of the fence at some point, one which will read:

“…Site of recent memory’s largest personal art project. It’s gone, but color remains if you seek it. X”

Love, X

Blue Light Special

My cat prowling the early morning landing around 3 a.m. To the left you can see my new set of mismatched blue bottle lights. They are very vivid! I am afraid to leave them twinkling or flashing. My neighbors all tend to get nervous when they see blue flashing lights. No one would come out of their apartment for a week.

Dead Tree Living

I decided to put my dead tree on the landing. The tree base is quickrete. I made a mobile platform with recycled metal and wheels. Today I had the joy of standing in the blazing sun and putting a clear finish on the colorfully painted limbs of the tree. Those aren’t real birds perched on the limbs and blue nest. At least, I don’t think so. Given the temperament of the squirrels around here, I fully expect to exit my apartment and find a squirrel’s nest on the tree at some point.

Imperfectly Perfect

My latest set of bottle lights aren’t quite finished but I put them out anyway.

This set is made from a wine bottle and two mason jars that were filled with a delicious dessert.

I used a complicated set of four wire remote control lights this time. I hate to admit it but it took me several hours to decipher the wiring once I cut it into sections. But I worked the problem until I got three of the four sections to work. I reminded myself that I’m an imperfectionist and put the non-working section out of my mind.

Perfect is the enemy of the good.

The lights are vivid and beautiful.

A lot of other things are too. Even if they’re not perfect. Or finished.

Love, X


I got a surprise when I came home today. A friend put a butterfly brooch out for Larkma, my resident sprite/fairy. It took me a while to know who it was. She can “out” herself if she wishes to. Doing so means that she willingly encourages this never-ending project I have going. I am even more tickled that more than one person in the last week has told me to keep on going with the art. (And also that people have taken the time to leave art offerings and whatnots to add to my wild collection.) Whether it is art is purely subjective.

As I stood out by the Gregg Street fence adding more tile patterns this afternoon, two Latino males were waiting at the light. The driver honked. As I turned, he gave me a big thumbs up. When I walked back into the parking lot, two neighbors at the end went out of their way to enthusiastically tell me that they love the color and jumble of it all. “Are they paying you?” one of them asked. I said, “No, but I didn’t ask for permission, either.” The other said, “It’s crazy and beautiful. I can’t wait to see what comes next.”

I said a prayer for them both because neither has any idea how far I might go with this.

Love, X

X Marks The Spot

A few weeks ago, a couple of days after installing a permanent kitchen table, I found this 29X24X4 inch heavy metal X at the Potter’s House Store. For $9. I wanted to paint it or do something crazy with it. Today, I installed it on the front of the landing balcony, in an attempt to thwart myself from painting in fushcia or spa blue. I do live in Apartment 10, which is a nice coincidence. (I once lived in an apartment in Springdale that was lettered and mine was literally Apartment X. I hated to leave that one. 🙂 ) Don’t worry, it’s screwed in on the bottom and toggle-locked on both sides of the top. Personal injury aside, I assume it would make a hellacious “boing” noise if it fell due to my not having it securely affixed up there. I won’t go into precarious detail about how I got it around and over the railing without a ladder at my disposal. It’s not an OSHA-friendly story. Even though this picture makes it seem like it was shaded, I went blind attempting to take a photo of it in the ridiculous June sunlight. As I was finishing putting it up, a visitor downstairs rolled her SUV window down to say, “I love all the color. Don’t stop.” I laughed. “I’m going to run out of room,” I told her. “Do the downstairs.” I nodded happily.

X marks the spot, as well as if to say, “You are here.”

I am here, lest there be any doubt.

Love, X