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\"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.” -- John Muir

Summertime is…

June 21, 2011

Click over to Sweet Shot Tuesday to see all this week’s photos. They are lovely!
Sweet Shot Day

The Sweetness of Rain

June 14, 2011

Chers Amis,

How sweet the rain tastes after a long, dry pause;  how grateful the tomatoes for the short, cool drink. —


Click over to Sweet Shot Tuesday to see all this week’s photos.  You’ll be inspired!
Sweet Shot Day

Let’s get building! – Shutters III

May 3, 2011

Chers Amis,

So you’ve decided to make shutters. Good for you!  Today we are going to get busy building.  By now you should have determined the finished dimensions of your shutters, style, made a bill of goods for lumber, purchased the wood – nice and straight, and set up a work area with all the critical tools.  Whew!  Once you get the wood home, make sure that it is dry.  Some of the pieces we bought were damp. They will warp so let them dry out before you start building. In addition to proper tools, you will also need good wood screws, eye protection, gloves, and metal plates to attach the breadboard tops. I do not have a picture of the plates, the are roughly 8-10 inches long and 1/5 or 2″ wide, flat metal with holes punch through them on either side of the center. DH says that they are standard at any big box store and there is a picture further on down in this post.

Step 1 –  Measure, mark, remeasure, cut, set aside. We made shutters for six 60 x 30 windows.  Each shutter required four 60″ boards x 2/window= 48  60″ boards. We cut them and set them against a garage wall.  Note **We chose NOT to precut the battens or bread box tops. As each board is slightly off the standard four inch width so that meant that each shutter was different.  Sine we wanted a very custom look, we did not cut the top or battens until the four main boards were assembled.

Step 2 – Sand until smooth on both sides and the ends.

Step 3 – Assemble – Place the four boards side by side making sure that the tops are flush.  Use  clamps/vices to hold them tightly together.  Measure the width of the shutter.  This will be the width to cut for the two battens. 

Step 4 – Cut and prepare the battens.  At this point you will need to decide the spacing on your screws.  Dh chose to counter sink the screws and cover the holes with these nifty wooden pegs we found at Michaels. Once you decide the spacing mark the hole locations on a stiff piece of carboard or plastic the size of your standard batten which you will use as a template.  Since we knew that each batten would be roughly 14.5″ wide we cut our template the same length and width as our ideal batten, poking holes through the template at the point where the screws will go. After you cut your battens, lay your template over the wood and mark the drill points on each.

Step 5 – Route out holes for screws deep enough to allow peg covers, drill pilot holes slightly smaller than screws. You might want to use a piece of scrap wood to practice routing out the right size hole for the covers so they will be easy to pop in.  Lessons learned the hard way. 🙂

Step  6 – Attach battens –  Determine the standard distance the battens will be from the bottom and top of your shutter.  Using the builder’s square, mark location.  LIne up batten with line and clamp tightly. Attach battens to shutter body with screws. 

Step 7 – Add the Breadboard top – Measure top of shutter for breadboard (bb).  Technically you could measure and cut this at the same time as you measure and cut for the battens. Whatever works for you. It is very important that the four pieces of the shutter are as aligned as possible as you will be attaching the breadboard directly on top and you do not want a gap.  To attach the bread board, flip your shutter “face” down, hold your bb top flush. Lay your attachment plate over the edge of the bb piece so that some of the holes are on the shutter side and the others are on the bb. Mark where the holes are. Sometimes we clamped the bb piece to the shutter, but often I just held it tight.  This is a two person project!  Screw the plate into place. Now your shutter is assembled!

Step 8 – Cover counter sunk screw holes with wood peg covers.  We put a small dot of liquid nails in the hole and used a rubber mallet to tap them in. 

Step 9 – Finishing touches – prime your finished shutters with a SANDABLE oil based primer.  Tint the primer if you are going to paint the shutters a dark tone. Do not neglect to paint the back side of the shutters or they will ROT! Let them dry completely and sand until smooth.  Typically painters will use a semi-gloss paint on shutters so they will look much better if you make sure they are smooth.  Paint with final coats of good exterior paint – at least 2 as they will take a beating from the weather and secure to the house with long screws. 

Step – 10  – Step back and ask each other why you didn’t do this sooner!


PS – Please let me know if you have any specific questions.  Best of luck!

How to Build Shutters, II

May 2, 2011

Chers Amis,

Building DIY shutters for an entire house is an undertaking, but it is doable and very rewarding. Last spring as part of our house remodel, my dh and I built shutters for 10 windows on the front of our Colonial Revival home.  It definitely helped with our curb appeal!   Last week Terri Sue asked for a few how toos and I realized that in all the summer kitchen craziness I never posted any information. Je suis desolee!  So here we are. In Part I I laid out the initial planning steps and today I am going to cover a few important tools and  tomorrow we’ll get down to the nitty gritty of cutting and assembly.  I hope that it will be helpful!


Having the right tools can determine whether or not you are able to complete your project and keep your sanity. Shutters do not require a woodworking studio but some common work horses that you will use for a variety of other DIY projects. Here are a few you should have on hand:

sander – belt or orbital either works 

saw – preferably miter or table saw. A circular saw will work but not if the blade is not sharp enough.  We started with a circular saw and decided to buy a table saw on Craigslist. A miter saw would have been great too.

drill  – make sure you have a bit that allows you to counter sink screws if you plan to cover the holes with wooden peg covers.  If it is battery operated, always have a battery charging.  This project will eat batteries.

clamps and vices – Once you determine the width of your shutters MAKE SURE you have several vices/clamps that open to that width.  We found that often the boards were either not perfectly straight i.e. warped or not of perfect width so when we were putting a group of four together we often had to line up each  end and clamp them together before attaching the battens. Otherwise they splayed apart.  Very irritating, but clamps gave us the proverbial upper hand. We purchased a set from H*Dpot that included both pinching clamps and sliding vices.  We then also bought a few wide clamps that you screw tight. We were being cheap and while they worked, I would have preferred the sliding variety.

A builder’s square – you will need a square to keep everything lined up or you will have crooked shutters. Take my word for it. Get one that is big enough to lay across the width of your shutter i.e. at the top so that it extends down the length.  Many people only have a small plastic square.  It will not suffice.

A work table – No, you do not need to buy one, but have a large working area that is comfortable and will hold your largest shutter.  Saw horses with sturdy plywood should work. We also had a smaller table to hold our tools so we did not knock over the drill when we repositioned the shutters.  Having a table to which you can clamp the shutter occasionally is also useful.

Tomorrow, let the building begin!

— Marjorie

How to build shutters – part I

April 29, 2011

Chers Amis,

Do you have shutters on your home? Do you wish you did but can’t afford to buy them or have them made custom?  That is where we were last spring.  DH loved the idea of shutters, but when we priced them on-line we discovered that they would run between $277 – $400 a piece for solid wood.  Since we had 8 windows that needed shutters we had two choices, do without or get busy.  DH, my choleric love, got busy.  Today’s post will concentrate on just the first few steps. Follow on posts will discuss useful tools and the basics of assembly.

Step 1. Measure the windows from the top of the trim to the bottom and across the same way. We had  (6) 60″ x 30″ windows and (2) 78.5″ x 30″ windows.

Step 2. Calculate the finished size by dividing the width by 2.  For us that meant each panel needed to be 15″ wide.   We wanted the European closed board and batten look.  We used stock wood from Home depot and Lowes, pressure treated 1x4s.  Did you know that a 1×4 is not actually 4 inches wide.  Nope.  They were just shy of it so 4 boards across were plenty wide since we were not mounting them on hinges to open and close.  Each finished panel was about 14.5.  Good, good enough.

Step 3. Decide if you plan on having a ‘breadboard top” – a piece of  horizontal wood across the top of the vertical panels. DH wanted this and it did add a nice finish, but it took a good amount of work.Do you want battens – the horizontal pieces.  How will you attach the battens?  Do you want to cover the nails/screws?  We chose to attach the battens with counter-sunk screws and then cover the holes with small wood peg covers we found at Michaels in the wood craft section.

Step 4 – Calculate how many linear feet of wood you will need for each shutter.  For example,  for each shutter for our 60″ x 30″ windows we needed: 4  long boards cut to 60″ = 240″

1 bread box top                 = 14.5 ”

2 battens                         = 29″

for a total of   284.5 inches or roughly 24 linear feet.  Multiply this number times 2 for the total per window, multiply by the number of windows of that size. We bought a LOT of wood.

Step 5 – Make bill of materials and purchase.  Take the extra time to choose each piece of wood as we found that some of the wood was warped and twisted and we literally had to wrestle it into submission with clamps.

Step 6 – Useful tools – clamps! We could not have made the shutters without clamps. I could go on and on about tools, but must run and finish dinner.  More to come! 


All Souls Day Crafts – El Dia de los Muertos

October 26, 2010

Chers Amis,

I am republishing this post from 2007 and replacing the pictures that fell out when I migrated from Typepad to WordPress. It is a good reminder to me that I need to get back in a liturgical mode with Pippin starting with All Souls and All Saints next week!


Chers Amis,

After a crinkle and flurry of multicolor tissue paper and starry splatters of spring green and marigold paint, Liturgical Craft club came and went from le moulin. This month we focused on All Souls Day and the festive celebration of El dia de los muertos – the Day of the Dead. One of the goals of the club is for the children to better understand and love the rich truths of the faith and to integrate that through arts and craft into the family’s daily devotions.  All of us have some area in our homes designated as the family altar or prayer center.  We try to choose crafts that can be displayed throughout the month to remind and inspire us.This month the children brought a splash and flourish of color to the altars with three simple crafts:

Suzanne Starr/The Arizona Republic

easy tissue paper flowers These were very simple to make, even for the little ones.  Click on the link for directions.  This site has excellent resources, information and crafts for Day of the Dead celebrations.  There is also a down loadable teachers guide with coloring pages, crafts, a skull mask and more.  We made a huge bouquet of paper flowers for a vase on a little book table below the shelf. I considered placing them up on the main family altar but reconsidered –  candles and tissue paper don’t mix

papel picado banners –  I love the concept of cutting intricate designs from tissue paper, but given the age of the club members we decided to forgo the Xacto knife/template version for a variation on the accordion fold snowflake. The completed panels were hung from brightly colored yarn to decorate the table/shelves/altars.  For wonderful instructions on how to make your own patters for Day of the Dead papel picado visit Our Little Nature Nest.

Starry night memory frames. I got the idea for
these frames from the artwork in The Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston. Click on the link and page through the ‘inside’.’ You will see that each page of this lovely book is framed in black and accented by bright motifs such as marigolds (the traditional flower for this holiday), stars, leaves or even tamales!

I purchased inexpensive ($1!) wood frames and spray painted them a glossy black.  The girls used a marigold yellow, spring green, and pure white acrylic paints to add their own variations on the theme.  We placed a photo of a much loved family member who has passed away in one frame and a Little Litany of Saints in the other.   I found some  printable clip art in the Day of the Dead party kit at the HP project and overlaid it with the litany for a nice homemade 4×6 prayer card to fit the frame opening.   Little Litany of the Holy Souls marigold During the month of November we will pray in a
special way for ‘the dead’ of our own family and recite the litany for
souls in purgatory. While none of these projects are stunning or complex, my kids loved doing them and are excited about praying every morning at the newly decorated altar.


PS – Some of the other books we read were:

Father Philip Tells a Ghost Story

A gift for Abuelita : celebrating the Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead (On My Own Holidays)

by Linda Lowery and Barbara Knutson

Stargazing 101

September 14, 2010

Chers Amis,

This year Pippin and I will be devoting a large amount of our science curriculum to Astronomy.  We have done some Astronomy in the past using Exploring Creation With Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright.  I read this with the girls as well and found it rather lacking. First of all, it is written from a very Creationist perspective which, as the daughter of an astrophysicist and real-life rocket/satellite/telescope  scientist ,is not adequate. It spends nearly the entire book talking about our solar system, the sun, and the moon.  All good and important, but this year we are going to be getting into much meatier topics.  We have already  found some excellent age-appropriate (4th-5th grade) resources on-line that I will try to share.

I do want to draw your attention to the upcoming Great World Wide Star Count. This is a wonderful introduction to stargazing, constellations, reading star charts, star magnitude, and the problems of light pollution.  In short, during the period from October 29-November 12, 2010 students are asked to go outdoors at a specified time and look for the constellation Cygnus the Swan , match their nighttime sky to the magnitude charts provided, and then report their findings. There is a well done activity guide available with all the worksheets, information, and directions necessary.  There is also an on-line quiz students can take to practice their skills.

If you have been wanting to start stargazing, this is so much fun.  Cygnus is easy to find this time of the year, right at the top of the sky above your head.  It includes Deneb, one of the three blazing stars that make up the Summer Triangle .  So click on over the the GWWSC and look at the star charts for Cygnus or here at Earth and Sky and then go outside tonight after dark.  Look straight up at the very top of the sky and you will have no difficulty seeing these constellations.  Let me know if you have any success 🙂


A little wistful

August 31, 2010

Chers Amis,

Pippin and I are back to school.  Actually we are just starting our third week of 4th grade. He likes to say 5th because virtually all his books say 5, but I am hanging on to every day so it is 4th period!  Why so insistent on the “4”? Because I am feeling a bit wistful right now.  I watched a friend’s children for her yesterday and it made me miss having my girls little and around me.  My friend’s middle daughter was eight and was fascinated with all the nature in our yard.  She longed to spend the afternoon wandering our petit corner of woods searching for toads, lizards, and any other living creatures I could help her find.  It made me misty.  Caddie is like that, she still is, but she is no longer eight and she is no longer holding my hand dragging me through the yard everyday to show me her latest fungal find.   Don’t get me wrong, she STILL does pull me by the hand and I follow willingly. But right now at 11:27 am on this Tuesday morning, she is in an excellent class at an excellent school – maybe even 8th grade science – but not here.  And I am all teary because…well, because the male green darner dragonfly (Anax junius) that glittered so brightly yesterday would have been so much better with Caddie’s hand in mine and her hand is getting bigger – and farther away.  Sorry.  Sometimes Tuesdays are just hard.


Kitchen is almost there!

August 27, 2010

Chers  Amis,

I have been terribly amiss in keeping you up to date on our kitchen/house project this summer.  Mea culpa. I blame the kitchen itself, and  summertime as well. There has just been too much going on for me to find the time to write properly! Pippin and I started back to school two weeks ago so the tidal surge continues.

The kitchen is virtually finished except for a few small changes the electrician needs to take car of in order to meet code and pass final inspection.  The rest that remains undone is all DIY work hs and I haven’t quite gotten to such asinstalling the last bit of new baseboard (it must be cut and coped), installing a new door jamb/frame to the living room, installing trim around the door to the living room and to the basement, and finish-up touch-up painting. Overall, the project is a HUGE success.

Until I take some final pictures I will share the story of our counter tops. We did FINALLY find granite that we both liked. The winner – Yellow River.  Ok, it was my big splurge, but I love the flow of golds, tans, grays and caramel brown. Dh’s big splurge was under cabinet lighting (LOVE IT!) and it didn’t make much sense to light up blah granite. The installer came out to the house once our cabinets were installed and took measurements with a CAD program. This digital template was overlaid with photos of our slab of stone so I could approve where the veining ran, direction, what to avoid etc. on the computer screen before the stone was cut.

It was a very interesting process.  A few words to the wise though.  Take a picture of the slab of stone you have bought. Write down the SKU number and make sure you see the actual slab again before the templating process is started. We ended up with a slightly different slab than the one I hand chose.  It did not make a real difference as they were from the same lot.  I did not bring the photo of the slab with me to the templating and they had already photographed the stone they were using. I was in a rush to leave town for vacation that afternoon and did not do a double-double check.  In the end I don’t know that I could see any difference, but this is not always the case.  The picture above is the actual template CAD design overlaid with the stone they used.  It is SO much prettier in person.  It looks just like a river bottom with flowing gray streaks and large inclusions of mother of pearl.  The under cabinet lights make it glow at night!  Here you can catch a glimpse of the the lovely (dd and stone 🙂 and the laid (trim in dire need of replacing).  Dh borr0wed a miter saw and nail gun from a friend so it SHOULD be finished by lundi.  On verra!


See, Mom, floor, but no ceiling!

June 28, 2010

Chers Amis,

Summer is nearly half over and the kitchen is almost half finished  – if you blur  your eyes a little.  Ok, a lot.  Maybe it is closer to 1/3 finished.I don’t even want to THINK about the school year.  I am in total denial.  I am worse than the kids.  I DO NOT WANT TO GO THERE!!!! Ok, back to the house. It is taking a bit longer than I would like, in part because we decided to go ahead and permit everything. Technically, we probably could have done it without permits, but my ‘by the books’ nature doesn’t jibe well with skirting the law for expediency, plus it will guarantee that it is done to code – I wouldn’t recognize the difference if it bit me -and if we ever do have to sell the house there will be no questions as to shoddy workmanship.  But… inspections take time and fixing little oversights take more time.  Add to that the cabin et installer’s vacation after the 4th (when the cabinets are scheduled to arrive) and the kitchen will not be done by my hoped date of July 1.

Why that date?  Because my wonderful, fantastic, superbulosa (made up, I know),  best of the best, maid of honor, friend I haven’t seen in 10 years (blast that stupid Atlantic Ocean!!!) is COMING this Friday. JOY to the 100th power. My usually sedate (if silly) self is elated.  Kitchen-smitchen –   Who CARE???? That said, I am glad we will have a sink and fridge and even our ancient but still functioning stove for most of the time. Ceilings optional.  🙂

Last week the flooring guys ripped out our old dining room carpet and kitchen linoleum and installed new red oak hardwood.  DH decided on 4-inch planks because he likes the wide look.  Any wider would have been way beyond our already busted budget. We also opted for grade 2 wood for a more rustic country feel. Living in the woods with three kids and a dog will be hard enough on the floor, plus the streaking and tiny knots add depth and character.  We still haven’t picked a color for the stain, but that will come after we know what the countertops will look like.   I am in love with my new floor and very anxious to start painting that horrid s almon!

DH and I are going to put up simple wainscoting in the dining room and he really wants to trim out the header above tAna Williamson Architect-Princeton Road traditional kitchenhe new pass way from the kitchen to the dining room with hardwood to look like the exposed beam below.  What do you think?  Our cabinets will be a cream with a light glaze not green 🙂 Lighting, paint, and granite TBD.  Oh, yeah, and hardware.  Eventually.  For now I am SO excited about Friday kitchens seem very insignificant – as long as I can still make lunch.


traditional kitchen design by