Table Project


This is a post about restoring an antique dining room table, which took me the better part of the summer and at which (spoiler alert) I am currently typing.

IMG_1098 2

This table appeared in our house in the above sad-looking state a few years ago during an extended absence from our home. We got back to find it propped against the wall upstairs with few clues as to where it came from, though my dad recognized it from his childhood. After some sleuthing this summer I found out my uncle had left it here because they needed to make room for new furniture, but were unwilling to completely get rid of this old family heirloom.



As you can see from these photos, the table was in pretty bad shape. Lots of rings, stains, scratches, and gouges. IMG_1104



My cousin Phil is a woodworker and it was thanks to him that I felt like I could tackle this project since I’ve never done any serious restoration kind of work before.





The first step was to sand, sand, sand. I started by hand with a pretty fine-grit sanding block, but it was taking FOREVER, so I borrowed a sander from my uncle and went to town. It still took forever, but was slightly faster. IMG_3460


It was also filthy and after attempting it first in the basement, I quickly relocated outside to the unfinished deck because I was worried I was giving myself the wood-working version of Black Lung.



I went through a lot of these little guys

The table has a pretty thick mahogany veneer on it and despite reading lots of horror stories about how easy it is to bust through a veneer and ruin a project forever, that didn’t happen. I was careful and also increasingly pleased to see how beautiful the wood grain was underneath all the dirt, stains, and old varnish. I was also filthy.



The legs posed a different problem, they were pretty unsteady and at some point in the past someone tried to stabilize the table by adding some extra parts. The original wooden screws/pegs were missing from the get-go, and it took a little bit of time and effort to figure out how to fix them up and attach them.


Phil, meanwhile, took the legs for me, disassembled them, sanded them, and gave them back. Reassembly was a bit difficult because a lot of the original screws were missing, and they were so old they weren’t much good to me. I went with some shiny new wood screws and the original brackets.

I also want to post more pictures of me with power tools so here you go:


Once the legs were reassembled, I had to figure out how to attach them to the table. In the end, I used metal bolts and since no one will ever see that part of the table, it gets the job done. Plus, if we ever need to move it out of the dining room (a distinct possibility) it’ll be relatively easy to dismantle it.




And then it was time for the finishing process. I used Danish oil, linseed oil, and about seven or eight coats of polyurethane, lightly sanding between coats. There is a lot of conflicting information online and I tried to do everything as standard as possible. I think it ended up looking quite beautiful and suitably shiny.


And there we have it! My first refinishing project!


I made some mistakes during the process, but on the whole I am really pleased with and proud of how it turned out. I like having a few projects going and I learned lots of useful things from this project that I can carry on to other things. In fact, I already did because I have since restored a really cool corner desk!


Actually, now that a couple months have passed and we have been using the table for our everyday life, I’d like to put a couple more coats of poly on just to shine it up and make it a bit more durable, but on the whole I am really happy with the whole project.



Kale, Kale, Kale, Kale. Kale, Kale, Kale, Kale. Kale, Kale, Kale, Kale, Kale Kale Kale Kale.

dirt on my face, garden, gardening tips, recipes

I wrote all those ‘kales’ to a song in my head. CAN YOU HEAR IT?



So. Kale. It is a miracle plant. It produces, and produces, and produces. It is a produce producer. Get it? Because it is produce?

Yeah, yeah, forgive me…I’m tired guys. As I write this I am struggling through some epic Whole30 cravings and I don’t WANT ANY MORE KALE EVEN THOUGH IT IS GOOD FOR ME I WANT A BOWL OF CEREAL AND SOME ICE CREAM AND SOME PIE.

Last night before I went to sleep I found myself watching short videos on the Food Network because GLUTEN-Y FOOD!

I miss gluten.

And dairy.

And sugar.

And carbs.



Kale has been a workhorse in our house this summer, and Sister and I have thoroughly enjoyed going out to the garden and snipping off leaves and filling literally bags and bags with our haul.

Yes, Claire, I know, I know. YOU’RE the one who goes out and harvests it. In a future post I should discuss how I love to dig, plant, weed, grow, and photograph the plants…but for some reason I lose interest right around the time they’re ready to be eaten? Hmm.

IMG_2701 2This is our favorite recipe, which is loosely based on one over at Epicurious, but is also different because it has evolved over time and also because of our laziness. Now, I don’t like things with sausage with few exceptions: one being my mom’s spaghetti sauce (HI MOM) and another being THIS RECIPE SO MAKE IT, OK?

  • Boil water. Add pasta to water. Preferably shells or something that can hold onto the sausagey/kaley/cheesey yumminess coming your way.
  • Buy Italian Sausage–remove from casings, break it up, and brown it in a pan
  • Add a little bit of chicken broth to that pan.
  • Chop up the kale FINELY (or else it gets too clumpy later); add it to the browning sausage.
  • Drain the pasta, setting aside some of the starchy pasta water.
  • When everything is cooked, stir it all together and then add more grated parmesan cheese than you think you could possibly need (I miss cheese), and then ADD MORE.
  • Add some of that starchy pasta water and stir over high heat for like…a minute…

It should be saucy, delicious, fragrant, kale-y, cheese-y, and mmmmmmmm the best meal of summer. We have made it at least once a week!

IMG_2700 2

AND FINALLY: there have been a lot of capital letters in this post and, frankly, you can and SHOULD read it as if I am yelling at you. Know why? No carbs or sugar have entered my body in a few days and I’m currently at the place where I’m kind of internally rage-y about that. Whole30 for the win!!

IMG_2702 2




PS: the video below is of a caterpillar on a kale leaf, don’t say I didn’t warn you


Something About Lettuce

dirt on my face, family, garden, gardening tips, humor


I found this post in my drafts folder with a somewhat cryptic note from Past Alex which said, “ALEX TURN THIS INTO A STORY OF THE LETTUCE”

I don’t know what Past Alex wanted! I know that the following pictures were included in the draft:

1. Lettuce Seeds


2. Torn Packet of Lettuce Seeds


3. This photo of Claire watching Trevor hurl a tree branch into the field


4. A selfie of me looking skeptical with Baby Garden making an appearance just over my right shoulder. Unsurprisingly, there appears to be some dirt on my face.


Perhaps Past Alex is thinking, “I don’t really like lettuce. Will I eat this lettuce?” and I can confidently say no. I still don’t like lettuce and I didn’t really eat enough of it. Which brings us full circle and technically makes this a story about lettuce. There was a plot (a garden plot, get it?), and some conflict (will she eat the lettuce?) and some resolution (this sentence is ending now).



A Secret Project

backyard ballad, family, friends, friendship

At the beginning of the summer, we decided to surprise our Dad and put on a big deck off the back of the house. It was HARD TO KEEP IT A SECRET, but we mostly managed (he kind of guessed…)

My cousin designed it and built it with Brother T, and it is DELIGHTFUL to sit outside on furniture gifted to us by our cousin Ashley. DELIGHTFUL.

I thought I’d just put a few pictures up of the whole shebang to commemorate it.


Sister, sitting on the old “structure”

I am going to say “we” in this post, and that mostly refers to Trevor and Phil who did 98% of the work on this project. Claire and I did some of the hammering and impact-wrenched a few screws and occasionally stood on a board while they sawed it in half, but really it was Trevor and Phil. And Jackson, who is four, did more than either of us!


The demolition begins. Also see baby garden in background.


Old thing gone. Room for new thing.

First, we demolished the old porch. If we can call it a porch. It had been there for 25 years and was more than a little crooked. It seemed so much bigger when we were in our single-digits!


Next, Trevor and Phil spent many hours digging holes that were four or five feet deep. That was some backbreaking labor (I gather…I mean…I mostly watched them and also brought cold bottles of water out and played with Phil’s adorable children, but it seemed backbreaking) and it took a while to get the holes deep with the manual post-hole-diggers. Then they mixed up bags of cement and poured them in. Those were going to be the supports for the deck and the holes had to be deep to protect from frost-heaves.


(“Alex, take a video of me working so I can send it to Katey.”)


Jackson is the hardest worker I know.

We spent some time getting all these old bricks up off of a small patio. Jackson seriously did more than half of that, lugging the bricks back and forth, squealing at ant colonies and thoughtfully transferring earthworms to their new homes in the garden. I love this kid! He is such a good worker and every time I was like, “Want to go play instead?” he would shake his head and say, “Alex, we gotta keep working.”


Phil was getting the big posts ready above, while Jackson stood by with his trusty “ear helmets” on.


Uncle Mike and Trevor spent a few hours moving the garden hose from one side of the house to the other side of the house, and then they started framing it up.



This is work, not play.

Then Phil and Trev started screwing the decking onto the frame, notching out the posts to go around the railing.


Below we can see photographic proof that I was involved in sitting on boards while Trevor used power tools.


Yes, I do stick my fingers in my ears like a toddler when there are loud noises around. Perhaps I should invest in a good pair of ear helmets.

Note the PASSAGE OF TIME in the background as the garden started to grow. Also note that at this point I thought my zucchinis would live and thrive and prosper. ALAS.


And then…look at this beauty!




It wraps all the way around from the side door to the back doors and has become our second living room. We still have some finishing touches to complete…like finishing the hand railings on the stairs, but overall I am pretty impressed!


We also need to stain/treat the wood, but we are already greatly enjoying the deck and are so grateful to Phil and to Trevor for all their hard work!!

(And Jackson, obviously.)