back porch · DIY · Home

Back Porch Tables

back porch table wine

Aaaaahhhhh! Can we go back to the weekend?

It’s Colombus Day, and while that might be a holiday where you are, it’s not really here on the West Coast. The kids have school, most people are working, it’s just a regular Monday. But if it were a holiday, I’d be here on my back porch, sipping wine with a new book.

I have a project today that might be a little late in the season, but for us in Northern California, it’s the perfect time of year to head back outside. The 100 degree days are over (PLEASE?!), and the evenings are just lovely. We’re back to enjoying dinners on the porch and Saturday afternoon naps on the daybed.

vintage trash cans

My project today started here. Rough looking vintage trash cans. The kind you had in your school growing up. I got these beauties for FREE at a local surplus store. (They’re super similar to these at Schoolhouse Electric. See, Husband? What a deal! I can’t imagine why anyone would want to give these away! Rust? Pfffft.) There were at least 30 of them up for grabs. I nabbed 6 with no real plan, but I brought them home and immediately spray painted them white.

Now, I know I have some crazy ideas. Husband usually just goes along with them and often helps out, especially with the painting. I’m waiting for the day when he puts his foot down and declares, “No! You may not bring that (insert random free item I drag off the curb and load into my car) into our house.” So far, he humors me (see “free” shutter). For this, I am very grateful.

instagram trashcan

I posted this photo to Instagram over the weekend, seeing if anyone had any guesses as to what I was working on. Surprise – no one guessed A TABLE! (My brother guessed an oil pan.)round table tops

I picked up these two pre-cut wood rounds at Home Depot and this 8′ rectangular wooden dowel (1/2′ x 3/4″) at our local hardware shop. My plan was to cut the dowel into smaller pieces to attach to the bottom of the wood rounds. The dowels would slide into the bottom lip of the trash cans and keep the tabletops from moving around.


This required finding the center of the circle. My high school geometry has escaped me (formulas have been replaced with Dan Zanes lyrics), so I googled to get the true method, involving chords and perpendicular lines (where’s a compass when you need one?). Husband (the engineer!) preferred to eyeball it. Between the two of  us, we had a reasonable point we both liked.


After measuring the diameter of the bottom of the trash can, I cut the dowel into one long piece of wood the length of the diameter (10″) and two smaller pieces of wood equal to 1/2 the diameter minus the width of the dowel (4.5″). Confused?

table top sketch


Here’s a drawing to explain. The outer circle is the wood round, the inner circle is the measurement of the inside of the trashcan lip. The wooden dowel crossbar will slide into the lip and hold the tabletop securely in place.

Confession: it wasn’t completely secure the first time, even though my measurements were VERY accurate. It’s pretty hard to saw exactly (we have VERY basic tools), and I wanted the crossbars to fit tightly in the bottom of the trashcans so they wouldn’t move at all. Husband helped me position the crossbars to make it just right.


After screwing the dowels into place on both wood rounds, we spray painted them the same color as the newly painted trashcans.

spray can gun

I got to use my super cool spray can gun attachment. You just slide it onto the can and squeeze the trigger. Game changer.


And miraculously, the tabletops fit perfectly. You can even pick the tables up by the wood rounds, they are so secure. (Thanks, Husband!)


I originally looked at garden stools to serve the table purposes, but I had a hard time justifying the price, especially when we have kids under 8. I think I would cry if one of those lovely porcelain beauties were shattered on our brick.


So for now, vintage trashcans with a wooden tops works just fine.

back porch

After we were finished, I asked Husband, “Do you really dislike them?”

“Well, I don’t like them, but I don’t dislike them, either.”

That’s a start.

back porch · books · five things · good life · Tennessee

Five Things


Hello! Happy Friday!

Hey, how’s your summer been? Overall, ours has been pretty good. I feel like we had a nice mix of structured camps, travel, and weeks of nothing. We’ve been gone for the past few weeks visiting family in Tennessee, and it was awesome. I forgot how GREEN everything is in the summer there. I have gotten so used to our “golden” (read: brown) hills of California that every time we got in the car there, I exclaimed, “Look at that hill! Look at those trees! Look at all this nature!!” I took so many random photos from the passenger seat (see above).

This is our last Friday before school starts, so we’re gearing up to get back into our structured routine. Here are a few things on my mind this week:

biltmore and garden

1. Biltmore Estate. This past spring, I ordered this book for BB. It’s a mystery novel set at Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. We spent a couple of weeks’ worth of afternoons reading a chapter or two out back on the daybed. I pulled out an old guide book about the house that I had saved in my scrapbook from the time I went with my class in 4th grade. He loved looking at the pictures of all the rooms and reading up on the history and construction of the property. After we finished, BB spent his own money to buy this coffee table book about the history of the house and more details about its rooms. I loved Biltmore as a child, and I loved that he fell in love with it, too, so Husband and I planned a surprise trip there while visiting our family in Tennessee. (It’s a little over an hour to drive from my hometown to Asheville.) BB’s excitement at being there was contagious. Every room we walked into, he shared facts he had gleaned from his books. “I see the Napoleon chess set! That’s the Winter Garden! There’s the secret door to the Smoking Room!” At one point, he went off in search of a docent because he had some questions.

“Is the 4th floor completely closed off?” he asked. I smiled knowingly at the docent, fairly certain that there were only 3 floors plus the basement.

“Yes, you’re right, the 4th floor is usually closed to visitors. It is mostly made up of servants’ quarters like you will see in the basement.”

BB nods knowingly.

“But if you do the rooftop tour, you will be able to see a few of the rooms on the 4th floor.” Wow. I was so impressed with my boy, not only that he knew so much more than I did, but that he so confidently went to her to ask his question. How did he get so big? (BG had fun at Biltmore, too, because she got to see a horse, pet some chickens, and eat ice cream at the Creamery.)

2. “As long as you don’t forget your breath, anything is okay.”  I have thought about this short video about one hundred times since I watched it, which means I have technically meditated about one hundred times as well. Love this wonderfully simple approach.

3. The Land of Stories. Speaking of books, my mother-in-law bought this one to read with the kids while we were in Tennessee. It’s a fun story that kept the 7-year-old and the 4-year-old (and the 38- and 36-year-old) engaged. On our trip to Biltmore, we listened to a few chapters of the Audible version, read aloud by the author, Chris Colfer (of Glee fame). The voices he does for each character are a wonderful addition to the story. We’ve continued reading it aloud after we got home, but we’ve had to edit it a bit. (In one scene where Goldilocks confronts Little Red Riding Hood about something that happened in the past, there are a few words our kids don’t know and that I REALLY don’t want to explain to them yet.) All in all, a fun page-turner that all of us look forward to reading after dinner each night. (And this book – another one set at Biltmore – is up next on my read-aloud list. Have any of you read it? I’m hoping it’s a good one.)

the biggest human temptation

4. This quote.

5. Made me chuckle.

The Olympics! We didn’t even really talk about the Olympics! What’s your favorite competition to watch? I love diving, and I always watch it equally amazed at their skill and terrified they are going to hit their heads. (Having seen Greg Louganis do it, I can’t unsee it.) It’s been fun to see my kids’ interest in the games for the first time. I’m looking forward to a low-key weekend of watching a few events, reading, and finishing up the last thing on our Summer Bucket List. Whatever you are up to this weekend, I hope you have a good one! Thanks for reading!


back porch · Home · It's Not Rocket Science

Back Porch Living + A Secret for Hanging Curtains

Look what we did this weekend:Back Porch Curtains

We finally got around to hanging curtains on our back porch. I’ve been wanting to do this since the moment we moved in a year and a half ago. I’ve gone back and forth on what I wanted. When I unearthed these light, billowy curtains from their (ahem) moving box, I decided to give it a go. What’s better than free (as in, we already own them) curtains?

Back Porch Curtains

We started with Husband installing the IKEA DIGNITET curtain wire.We used 3 sets, along with 3 additional support pieces. Installation was quick and easy. Next was my turn to hang the curtains. We had 10 of these panels from Cost Plus that we used on all the windows in our old house. (Luckily, they are still available as I need to buy two more panels to make everything symmetrical.)

So here’s my curtain secret:

I remember when I used these at the old house how much it would bug me to not be able to tie each of the knots at exactly the same length, so this time, I attempted to hold a ruler while I tied the knots onto the wire. While standing on a ladder. It took a long time, and it didn’t really work, so I got creative.

Back Porch Curtains

I used a permanent laundry marker and ruler to mark 6 inches on the back tie of each pair on every curtain. (For you folks keeping track at home, that’s 7 ties times 10 panels.)

Back Porch Curtains

I could have used a washable marker used for sewing, but the mark doesn’t really show at all once it’s tied, and while I don’t know how often I’ll be washing these, I don’t want to have to remeasure every time.

Back Porch Curtains

Sneaky sneaky!

Back Porch Curtains

Since I marked the back tie only, any mark that could be seen is hidden when the ties are tied.


I now have perfectly even ties – so good for those OCD tendencies.

Back Porch Curtains

My dreamy new porch curtains – and a peek at the next outdoor project – the dining chairs. New paint and new fabric for those are on the agenda for next weekend.

back porch curtains

Even though the daybed is still a work-in-progress, the back porch is already our new favorite place. Over the course of the weekend, it was home to a nap (me), working on the laptop (Husband), blowing bubbles (BB & BG), sipping wine (grown-ups, obviously), and reading (all). There is something about watching a breeze blow through soft curtains that brings on a deep sense of relaxation. Bring on Summer – I know where we’ll be spending it.