We Were Doing Fine Until the D.I.Y. Cornflakes

THE FINAL WEEK OF D.I.Y. ATTEMPTS

We finished the final week of DIY madness, just in time to sit back and relax for the last few hours of Memorial Day. (We may have gone a little overboard this last week, but isn't that the point of this blog?) During the past eight days, we've:

  • Made a D.I.Y. Yard Yahtzee set
  • Cooked D.I.Y. cornflakes
  • Made two D.I.Y. bread loaves
  • Baked D.I.Y. Nilla Wafers
  • Spruced up our outdoor space with D.I.Y. outdoor lighting—twice 
  • Made D.I.Y. exterior shutters
  • Disassembled and transported an entire hot-tub enclosure (we'll explain) 

THE RESULTS WERE MIXED, AND WE'RE EXHAUSTED

D.I.Y. CORNFLAKES (MONUMENTAL FAIL): I've always been annoyed by recipes that don't show photos of the cooking process, only the polished final product. Now I understand why. (See the first picture for my DIY cornflakes.) Step 1 looks like corn-colored dog diarrhea. If that picture would have been part of the recipe, I would have vomited and run screaming.

Why anyone would try to make their own cornflakes, I don't know. But it was on this list of Buzzfeed Foods You Didn't Know You Could DIY. So I had to give it a whirl. The result was similar in texture to cardboard, only resulted in a half-bowl of "flakes" after all that work, and somehow managed to taste worse with milk. I would not wish these DIY cornflakes on anyone.

The many stages of DIY cornflakes.

The many stages of DIY cornflakes.

D.I.Y. NILLA WAFERS (WIN): I found this recipe on another Buzzfeed list of 27 DIY Snack Foods: So You'll Never Have to Buy Them Again! After the cornflake debacle, these old-school vanilla wafers of childhood were a welcome surprise (even if I had to intuit half the directions because the recipe said things like "bake until golden brown"--no time given, and gave no instruction on how to make them circular in shape). After finally realizing I could create tiny circles of dough with the help of a small shot glass, it was smooth sailing. And the flavor of these cookies turned out to be darn close to Nilla wafers. We even dunked them in banana pudding to see if they could stand the most important test. They did!

DIY Nilla Wafers for the win (even if they aren't perfectly round).

DIY Nilla Wafers for the win (even if they aren't perfectly round).

D.I.Y. YARD YAHTZEE (WIN FOLLOWED BY SEVERAL FAILS): This project seemed so promising at first. We got cedar lumber cut into cubes at Home Depot, sanded them all down, used a drill press to make the dots, and started painting them. But then we left them outside overnight. The temperature changes must have split the wood. Now we have tiny cracks all over the dice, so we aren't sure they will hold up over time. Nevertheless, we had to test them, so we invited friends over to give it a whirl. (Thanks, Cami and Zach, for your patience on this one.) We even purchased a giant chalkboard plank from Home Depot to draw a Yahtzee scorecard. 

  1. First fail: If the grass isn't mowed, the dice don't sit flat, so you have no idea what number is showing.
  2. Second fail: When you throw raw wood repeatedly against the grass, the grass will stain the wood.
  3. Third fail: Our dog really likes the taste of cedar. Within a matter of seconds, these went from Yard Yahtzee dice to hand-crafted dog toys. And she wouldn't give them back.
Well that was fun for all of five seconds...so long, Yard Yahtzee. It was nice knowing you.

Well that was fun for all of five seconds...so long, Yard Yahtzee. It was nice knowing you.

D.I.Y. OUTDOOR LIGHTING (FAIL FOLLOWED BY A POSSIBLE WIN): The DIY section of Popular Mechanics told me to make my space happier by hanging outdoor lighting. I did. It was great. I even splurged and bought solar-powered lights so I wouldn't have to remember to turn them on at night. Then Chuck hit the lights with the weed-whacker. Fail. Start over. So I did (begrudgingly). I ordered new lights and mounted them on bamboo sticks, high above the reach of lawn equipment. The only problem is that I had to wrap them around an oak sapling to get the desired height. Now the oak is visibly bending over. I'm not starting again. I'll cross my fingers and hope the tree survives.

D.I.Y. BREAD (WIN): These were delicious! We were feeling inspired by all the DIY baking articles, so we decided to try making bread without a bread maker (see this New York Times article). Chuck did all the work for this DIY project. Because this bread uses very little yeast, it needs several hours to rise in different environments. That means you need to be willing to spend two days on your loaf of bread and be home at the right time to transition it to the oven. But the end product is worth the work. The texture and deep flavor will make you want to devour the entire loaf for dessert. (We added sunflower seeds to one loaf and rosemary to the other.)

D.I.Y. EXTERIOR SHUTTERS (WIN, WITH A FEW MISHAPS): Pinterest is an endless source of DIY inspiration. I've wasted more of my life combing through Pinterest than I care to admit, and even more time trying to execute the projects I find. This project takes the cake for time commitment. I found an article pinned on Pinterest that promised me I could make exterior shutters in no time: 

These looked so simple on Pinterest. The author even used the word simple.

These looked so simple on Pinterest. The author even used the word simple.

Perhaps I should have followed her directions and gotten new wood, cut in the correct lengths, from Home Depot. Unfortunately, our DIY budget was running dry. I also believe in using reclaimed materials whenever possible. So I went to the local Habitat for Humanity reused materials store and picked up some kinda gross pallet wood for $8. Score! (Chuck has informed me that wasn't actually a deal if you know the price of new fence planks at Home Depot.)

Then, after feeling momentarily triumphant, I got home and realized I was not making two shutters, but two pairs of shutters. So I was short on wood—by half. Back to the lot. More wood. When I finally had my supplies in order, I couldn't resist the urge to whitewash the shutters. (Everyone whitewashes everything on Pinterest, so it can't be that hard.)

After reading several tutorials, the whitewashing technique wasn't that difficult. The real difficulty was justifying the time commitment for all of this, especially on a holiday weekend:

  • Finding cool planks at the store and unscrewing them from the old pallets: 1.5 hours
  • Cleaning and whitewashing the planks to perfection: 2.75 hours
  • Painting the crossbeams white: .5 hours
  • Covering everything with two coats of polyurethane so the paint doesn't leech: 1 hour
  • Cutting and assembling the pieces: 3 hours
  • Re-assembling the broken pieces after the wind knocked them over and broke them apart: 1 hour
  • Hanging the shutters: 1.5 hours (and a near death experience on a ladder)

I'm not sure if it was worth all the time we spent, but they do look nifty. And now we can tell our children and grandchildren, "Hey, those are the shutters that caused several heated arguments and stole away our Memorial Day weekend in 2016! Aren't they cool?"

AND THE BIGGEST D.I.Y. FAIL OF THEM ALL: We should have stopped at the shutters, but clearly we weren't busy enough. So when this little gem popped up on Craigslist, we decided to go for it. Yes, that's right: YOU DISASSEMBLE IT AND HAUL IT AWAY—a true D.I.Y. project.

You guessed it: We were the schmucks that decided this would make a great DIY outdoor dining space, and it would be a perfect addition to this month's blog experiments. We must have been out of our minds. Completely bananas. Sleep deprived and on the brink of insanity. There is no other explanation.

This isn't going to end well...

This isn't going to end well...

We had to battle rusty nails, hornets' nests, spiders everywhere, and the owner's two large dogs (one of whom stole our masking tape and chewed it to pieces). 

At one point while we were taking this apart, Chuck pulled on the wrong screw, and the entire ceiling collapsed down into the center of the enclosure. Had I been a few feet to the left, that would have been the end of my life. No DIY project is worth a human life. (Remember that, kids.) I should turn that into an inspirational poster.

No, not that screw!

No, not that screw!

We disassembled this entire monster using a couple of hand tools. It took two entire days. Now we're stuck with all the pieces and have absolutely NO IDEA how to build a foundation for this thing or reassemble it without dying. This is not our finest moment. We'll let you know when we start figuring this out, but for now, it's time to call it quits with the D.I.Y. endeavors.

RECAP OF OUR D.I.Y. MONTH:

It's been a good month, full of learning experiences: D.I.Y. haircuts, retro cocktails, landscaping projects, baking, woodworking, and whatever the hell this hot tub enclosure project was. The biggest lesson we've learned: it's great to learn new skills, but humans need to sleep. Time is valuable, so choose your D.I.Y. projects carefully. You only have so many hours in a day, and some of those need to be spent in your REM cycle. And please, for the love of god, just buy cornflakes.

We're still alive...barely.

We're still alive...barely.