Saturday, 23 March 2013

My ottoman empire

Or, how I turned an abandoned coffee table into an ottoman. Warning, this post might run a little long. Run, get it?

I absolutely love browsing other people's design and DIY blogs, one of my favourites being Young House Love. From time to time they issue Pinterest challenges where you're supposed to find a Pinterest inspired project and actually implement it instead of just pinning it. Alongside this I had seen another blogger's project about turning a coffee table into an ottoman, and since I have always wanted a zebra upholstered ottoman and never been able to find one I liked, or afford it for that matter, I finally decided to have a go.

Like many of my best ideas, it all started on a run. It was council clean up time, which means a lot of the local residents had put out unwanted household stuff and I quite literally almost stumbled across this abandoned beauty on the verge.

It was in pretty bad condition. The varnish had cracked and peeled off years ago, and the top was bowed and buckled beyond any redemption. But that was okay. Because it had good legs and really, that was all I was interested in.

The first step was to remove the drawer, which I didn't need, clean the table, tighten the wobbly legs (turns out, the girl can rock a socket wrench!) and apply a couple of coats of stain and varnish.

Once this was done, I decided to add some timber around the bottom of the table so that I would have somewhere firm to stretch the fabric over later, that would be parallel to the edge of the coffee table lip and allow the ottoman to retain its rectangular proportions. Adding the timber involved a trip to Bunnings, buying some $2 pine planks and sawing them to size before nailing them on. All done by a girl who doesn't normally know which end of the screwdriver to hold!

I make it sound like this was a breeze but really, the whole process to this stage took about two weeks. In between shopping for the necessary bits, (which I was determined would cost next to nothing) finding the time and energy to do it all and panting for breath between sawing etc.

Once the timber base was securely in place I covered the scabby old table top with wood glue, and added a foam cushion. I had originally tried to use part of an old foam mattress (also found on the side of the road) but it turns out this was too thick and would have made the top of the ottoman too high, so I buckled an ordered the foam from a warehouse in Perth which cost about $30. It was worth it though, because it was the perfect size and totally clean and pretty.

Then I covered the whole shebang with $6 batting and discovered the fabulous therapeutic benefits of wielding a staple gun.

And with the batting more or less in place, it was time to add the zebra upholstery fabric. Initially I had wanted really 'fat' zebra stripes but this proved really hard to find. And anything even vaguely suitable online ran to hundreds of dollars. So I was more than prepared to 'make do' with this $11 upholstery from Spotlight which I stumbled upon by happy accident. Just like the batting, I cut it to size, stretched it tight over the frame and thumped it into submission with my all-powerful staple gun.

The corners proved to be a little tricky. I couldn't figure out how to make them look fancy and 'upholstered' so in the end I just 'gift-wrapped' the table top. It looks okay but if I were ever to do this again I would probably spend the time figuring out the fancy corners.

Then I brought the whole thing inside and tried it out in my living room. It looks good, but not as wonderful as I had hoped. I think the stripes are too narrow and 'busy' and fatter, glossier ones would have been better. But hey, for a free coffee table and my first ever DIY attempt I reckon I deserve to be reasonably happy. And I am.

Just to finish it off I hammered in upholstery tacks along the base of the frame. I used a piece of string to help keep me in a more-or-less straight line and placed the tacks about 2.5cm apart. I had hoped this would give it an upmarket, store-bought finish but in fact, its not all that easy to spot them in the higgledy-piggledy zig-zagging craziness. Still, it adds something and was definitely worth the effort.

And here's the finished product.

And as for the budget breakdown, I'm pretty happy with that too. The table was free, the timber cost $6, the batting cost $6 and the fabric cost $11. The upholstery tacks were about $25 and the most expensive part was the foam which ran to around $30. So for around $72 I think I can afford to be happy with my not-quite-perfect ottoman. Perhaps its the start of my ottoman empire?

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Pop six squish uh uh

I am a very slow runner. I know this because when my husband and I entered a race together last year he had to run backwards in order to run at my pace. Backwards, and also sideways (those horsy looking gallopy things you do up hills) and then large looping circles so that he could rejoin me in my position as permanent back-of-the-packer.

But here's my excuse. You see, I love musical theatre. I adore it. And its on my playlist so my running is constantly interrupted by my need to pop six squish uh uh or gliddy gloop gloopy nibby nobby nooby la la la lo lo. Running on its own isn't easy. But try doing it with jazz hands because Velma demands it, waving at strangers because Tracy says good morning Baltimore, or step-ball-changes because the Joseph ensemble is in the gloriously glittery final throes of the megamix finale. You see? That's why I'm slow. No other reason. None at all.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

I run because I can.

Friends who've known me for years are often bemused by the fact that I've taken up running. After all, they knew me when I was a plumpish couch potato with a penchant for reality tv, harry potter, ice cream and daydreaming. So I often get asked why I do it, and how I got started.

Its a tricky question to answer. But I think I have four main reasons. The first is that I have found, quite by accident, that running helps to quell the rising anxieties I have battled since we moved to Perth from Sydney three years ago. The second is that I have discovered that running is, surprise suprise, a child free activity which is rare occurrence in itself, but also one that has my husband's full blessing and support. The third is that I find setting myself goals, working towards them and ultimately achieving them (like running my first 10km, 12km etc) makes a massive difference to my self esteem, perceptions of what I am capable of, my health and weight, and ultimately my happiness levels.

But perhaps the most powerful reason that I have learned to love running is that I have learned that I am fallible, and that I will not last forever. My husband was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, but is thankfully now fully recovered. My dear friend Marion was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year, and sadly she passed away a few months later. And another long-standing friend who lives overseas is currently doing a spectacularly brave battle with ovarian cancer. As I stand by helplessly and watch these three dearly loved warriors fight for their lives, and hear stories about many others, I realise that the one thing that cancer patients all long for is the one thing I take daily for granted: a healthy body. And to use it, enjoy it, test it and push its limits is a truly privilege and an honour, and a temporary one at that. So when I run, I think about the joy that comes from running on behalf of the loved ones who can't join me. And I think about the fact that one day I might not be able to run either, but at least I can look back at myself and say, hey, I did well there. I tried and persevered and succeeded. And ultimately, I run because I can.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Read. Write. Run. Repeat.

I am a Perth-based mum, wife and blogger wanting to improve my direction and inspiration in life. I know I am designed to do a few things well: I am a devoted mum and a loving and loyal wife. I am also a passionate reader, researcher and reasonably talented writer with a dream to publish a book about the life of a remarkable ancestor of mine. And on top of that, I am a beginner runner, having started running about a year ago, and with a goal to run a half marathon in 2013.

I hope to use this blog to process my thoughts, share insights and start conversations. Everyone is welcome.