Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to Make a No-cake Birthday Cake


No-cake birthday cake

My son just had a birthday. He's never been a fan of cake or cookies, so every year I try to make some bacon concoction served along with some vanilla ice cream. This year I thought I'd get fancy. Here's a step-by-step picture tutorial on how to make a no-cake birthday cake.

(I got my initial idea here- http://www.pinchingyourpennies.com/thrifty-fun-birthday-cake-gift/)

Step-by-Step Directions for a No-Cake Birthday Cake

1. Cover a cookie sheet or piece of cardboard with an old plastic tablecloth or a piece of wrapping paper. Just something pretty to cover it.
Cover cookie sheet
I used an old plastic table cloth to wrap a cookie sheet.
2. Arrange three Pringles cans in the middle. You can tape them if you want so they don't slide around.
Add three pringles cans

3. Arrange 10 or so pop cans in a circle around the Pringles cans. The Pringles don't form a perfect circle, so just line the pop cans up as best you can.
Pop cans around pringles
Notice these are pop cans, you guys. Not soda cans, ya'll.
4. Put a ribbon around the pop cans.
Add ribbon
I taped on some leftover ribbon from a Christmas present long ago.
5. Slide some individually wrapped beef sticks strategically around the Pringles. This is no willy-nilly, haphazard operation. It must be strategic.  No pressure.
Add beef sticks
Strategic beef stick placement. Giggity.
6. Cover the lid of a plastic ice cream bucket or another piece of cardboard with the same old plastic tablecloth or wrapping paper you used for the base. Tape it to the top of the Pringles cans.
Add second layer with ice cream lid

Add second layer with ice cream lid
Tape it all together.
7. Place a can of pop on top of that second layer. Surround it with fun sizes of their favorite candy bar. Tie a ribbon around it.
Add candy bars and ribbon

Add candy bars and ribbon

8. Add more candy bars, beef jerky sticks, or small Slim Jim's in all the spare spaces. Again, think strategic placement. You can tell by looking at my picture that I didn't just throw those babies in wherever. Right? Right.
Add extra snacks
Add all the snacky goodness in wherever it fits.
9. Tape a candle to the top of the pop can, and add curly ribbons to make it look fancy.
curly ribbon
Curly ribbon flowing down the sides.
curly ribbon
Candle and curly ribbon taped on top.
And that's it! There's a lot of variations you can try depending on what snacks your birthday kid likes.

For the record, he liked it.
No-cake birthday cake
I didn't tape all the curly ribbon down, so when he blew out the candle, he blew some ribbon across the table. For a minute I thought it was hot candle wax and panicked. Tape down your ribbon, people.

Not so strategically yours,
Mulligan Mama

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Five Pitfalls to Avoid When Installing a Bathroom Sink


Five Pitfalls to Avoid When Installing a Bathroom Sink

In my last post, I talked about how to remove an old wall mounted bathroom sink. The next logical post would be to tell you how install a new sink. Well, I'm not really going to do that, because there are numerous tutorials, videos, and how-to guides online that do a better job explaining the process than I ever could.

In fact, here's one I referenced before I did my project-

http://www.lowes.com/cd_Install+a+Bathroom+Vanity+and+Sink_1394207886203_

What I am going to do is talk about some of the mistakes I made in my project so that hopefully you can avoid some of these same pitfalls. These are things the tutorials and how-to videos don't always tell you about.

Five Pitfalls to Avoid When Installing a Bathroom Sink

1. Silicone Caulk vs Plummer's Putty
The helpful salesman at the hardware store handed me a jar of plummer's putty and told me I would need it. Indeed, most of the tutorials I read said I would need plummer's putty, and it was cheap, so I bought it without question. But once I actually opened my faucet and drain hardware, it said specifically to not use plummer's putty and to use silicone caulk instead. Thankfully, I had purchased silicone caulk as well so I didn't need to make a separate trip.

Silicone caulk instead of plumber's putty
The faucet and drain hardware called for silicone caulk.
Hand weights to hold faucet base in place
My high-tech way of holding the faucet in place while the caulk dried.
Caulk to attach sink to vanity
I also used the caulk on the top of the vanity before placing the sink, as well as along the top of the sink where it met the wall.
2. Overflow vs non-overflow sinks require different stoppers.
We purchased a sink and vanity combo and then bought the faucet and drain stopper separately. I was excited to get a push-button drain stopper so I wouldn't have to fiddle with the flimsy metal rod behind the faucet that goes up and down. But as I started to install the drain, I was having a hard time figuring out how it was going to hold water in the sink. And that's when I saw in teeny tiny print at the bottom of the directions-- this particular push-button drain could not be used with sinks that didn't have overflow holes. And when I bought the sink and vanity combo, there was nothing on the box that indicated it didn't have overflow holes. I was able to go back and purchase a push-button drain stopper than can be used with sinks with no overflow. The moral of the story is-- check your sink type thoroughly before buying the drain.

Push-button drain stop
The original push-button drain was leaking and I couldn't figure out how it was supposed to hold water.
Push-button drain stop
A push-button drain designed for sinks with no drain holes holds water with the push of a button. Neat.
3. The vanity needs to be flush to the floor... and the wall. Be prepared to scribe.
I knew our bathroom floor was very uneven. We're talking put a ball on one end and watch it pick up speed as it careens towards the wall uneven. I figured that I would use shims to level the vanity in regards to the floor.
Level the vanity
Yep, it's uneven.
Level the vanity
A little better after placing shims.
Shim under the vanity
A shim under the vanity.
What I didn't think about was getting the vanity flush to the wall. We have thick wood trim along the bottom of the wall. I would have either had to cut out the trim or cut the vanity to sit flush against the wall. I decided it made more sense to cut the cheap particle board vanity than the 100+ year old wood trim. This process is called scribing.

It's a lot easier in theory than in execution. The only tool we had that would do the job was a sawzall. As my husband put it as he watched me hack through our vanity (in the kitchen, no less), using a sawzall to cut a cheap particle board vanity was like trying to kill a butterfly with a machine gun. It tore that thing apart, but in the end, it worked well enough. (The kitchen was covered in saw dust, though. But hey, it was freezing outside at the time.)

Scribing the vanity
Vanity doesn't sit flush against the wall.
Scribing the vanity
Attempt to scribe with my kids' compass. Not the sturdiest tool ever built.
Scribing the vanity
You can kind of see the pencil marking where I will make the cut.
Scribing the vanity
Sawzall on particle board-- like killing a butterfly with a machine gun. In the kitchen, no less.
Scribing the vanity
Um, not the prettiest, but it worked well enough.
Unfortunately, my scribing job was so bad that I could no longer get the vanity flush to the floor, despite my best efforts. In the end, I used peel and stick tile as a back splash to hide the unevenness.

Level the vanity
Don't look too closely at the row of holes, because unlike my vanity, they ARE level.
4. Measure sink tail pipe AND wall pipe.
I measured the size of the old tail pipe of the sink and (wrongly) assumed that the wall outlet was the same diameter. Wrong. They were two different sizes, so the initial drain kit I got only fit on one end. Then I got another kit that was the right diameter for the wall outlet. But then the drain pipes didn't line up.

Installing drain pipe
I attached a tail pipe to the drain pipe-- here I'm putting on the nut and washer.
Installing drain pipe
The pipe in the wall was metal, so I used a metal connector... because it seemed like the right thing to do.
5. Drain pipe kits don't always come with all the necessary pieces.
Not only did I not measure for the right size drain pipes, the kits I bought were deceptive in what comes in them. The one I purchased showed pieces in the instructional diagram that were not included in the kit. I had to go back to the store to get another nut and washer to connect the pieces. In the end, I decided to forgo the kit in favor of a flexible tubing so I could more easily line up the drain tail pipe to the wall pipe.
Drain pipe kit
See that picture? See the letters and labels on the pieces? Yeah, not all of those pieces are included.
Drain pipe kit
The wall nut and washer weren't included; I guess I should have known since they weren't numbered.
Flexible drain pipe
Tightening the connections on the flexible drain pipe.
Flexible drain pipe
Flexible drain pipe-- BEST. INVENTION. EVER.
PVC drain pieces
Leftover PVC pipes make great bath toys for the baby!
I'm sure there are plenty of more ways to mess up a sink, but these are five pitfalls to watch for if you ever install a bathroom sink.

Oh yeah, I should probably add #6-- prepare for a mess waaaay bigger than you expect.
Installing the sink mess
Um, honey? How about you clean the mess since I installed the sink?
Also, cats make terrible assistants.
Vanity Cat
El Gato is always up in my biz when I'm trying to DIY.
But I finished it regardless!
Sink installed
Mulligan Mama and her not-so-flush sink. Love the pull and stick tiles for the back splash!

~MulliganMama

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How to Remove an Old Wall Mounted Sink


How to Remove a Wall Mounted Sink
When my hubby and I bought our old house, we knew that eventually we would need to remodel the upstairs bathroom. But since there were lots of other house projects on the list that were more pressing (i.e. lack of air conditioning, broken sidewalk, basement plumbing issues, wimpy hot water heater, etc.), we didn't make any plans to address it...

...until the old wall mounted sink started leaking on the floor. A closer inspection revealed the bottom was rusting out, which wasn't surprising considering the sink was possibly as old as the house (over 105 years old) or at least 80 years old (it looks like a sink from the 1920's). While a full bathroom remodel was still out of the question, replacing the old wall mounted sink with a new, inexpensive vanity and sink was doable.
Old Wall Mounted Sink
The old sink.
I have done a few odd plumbing jobs over the years, so I felt fairly confident that Google and I could tackle the project together.

The first step was removing the old sink. Here are the steps I followed to complete this task: (Forgive me if I don't use the correct term for each part. I'm not well-versed in plumber-speak.)

1. Turn off the water supply at the wall.
Righty tighty, lefty loosey. I have to say it out loud every time. I then turned on the faucets to make sure the water was really off.

2. Place an empty bucket underneath to catch any leftover water in the lines. Unscrew the water lines from the wall and from the faucets underneath the sink.
There is a special tool to reach the faucet nut if it's hard to reach, but I was able to manage with a long handled wrench.
Remove water lines
The water supply line removed from the wall and from the faucet. It was still in fairly good shape, so I saved it in case it would work for the new sink. (It ended up being too short.)
3. Loosen the nut connecting the trap (the curved pipe-- might be a P-trap or a J-trap or some other letter-trap) from the sink tail pipe (the straight pipe) coming down out of the sink. Keep your bucket right under it to catch the water in the trap.
This is where things got interesting. While trying to loosen the connection, the whole tail pipe broke right off the sink. Either I'm Xena, Warrior Princess with super human strength, or that pipe was really rusted. I have suspicions it was the latter.
Tail pipe broke off old sink
Who needs a wrench when you can just bust the pipe clean off?
Tail pipe broke off old sink
Almost a century's worth of spit, toothpaste, hair, and other gunk.
4. Finish removing the trap from the wall pipe. 
I took the next section of the curved pipe off but didn't fully remove it from the wall at this point (see pictures under step #6). I didn't take pictures because there was a lot of hair in the pipe, and it was gross. Not saying whose hair it was...

5. Cut and remove all caulking that connects the sink to the wall.
I just used a utility knife, because I wasn't worried about scratching the sink or the wall. If you need to protect your wall, be very careful attacking the caulk with a knife.
Remove caulking from old sink
Cutting the caulk with a utility knife.
Remove caulking from old sink
There was caulk all along the top and side of the sink.
5. Lift sink straight up and off the wall mounting bracket.
I'll admit this stage had me stumped. If you looked up under the sink, you could see a wall bracket, and it looked like the sink was bolted right to it. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how I was supposed to unscrew the sink from the wall. It just didn't seem possible. A quick Google search revealed that I didn't need to unscrew the sink at all--it was just resting right on the bracket. This video was incredibly helpful, and I wish I had watched it before I started this whole project- http://www.finehomebuilding.com/item/25069/how-to-remove-an-old-bathroom-sink

It was a "light bulb/face palm" kind of moment. I waited until hubby got home to help me, because that sink was HEAVY. We both took a side and lifted it straight up. It came right off the bracket with no trouble.
Lift old sink of wall mount bracket
The wall mounting bracket, minus the sink.
Back of old wall mount sink
The back of the sink-- you can see the two metal tabs that had sat down in the bracket. That's all that was holding this baby to the wall, plus a little bit of caulk.
Lift old sink of wall mount bracket
The wall minus the sink, the water lines, and the trap. Notice the bucket. Don't forget the bucket.
6. Unscrew the wall bracket, remove the rest of the caulking, and prepare the wall for the new sink.
The bracket unscrewed from the wall, leaving some nice holes behind. I sanded down the holes in the tile board to provide a smooth surface for the next sink. As you can see in this picture, I hadn't removed the rest of the trap from the wall pipe. I figured I would get to it when I installed the new trap system. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, as my next post will reveal.
Old sink removed
We were sinkless for a few days. We brushed our teeth over the bathtub.
In the words of George Costanza: "It's all pipes!"
That's it! The hardest part was moving the heavy sink. It's still sitting in the upstairs hallway until we can figure out what to do with it. Stay tuned for my next post on installing the new sink... that's where the real fun begins.

~Mulligan Mama, aka Xena, Warrior Princess