5 Years Later

May 20, 2016   //  Posted in: Casual Celebrations   //  By: Emily   //  7 responses
Emily Fazio

photo by pete.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t waiting for my luck to run out every single day, but here I am, exactly 5 years after I left my job at an advertising agency to go rogue. 5 years, you guys! Today I’m celebrating that.

5 years of freelancing also means that I’ve been “on my own” for the same amount of time that I was employed by that agency, which feels pretty liberating and also makes me want to take a whole day off to sit back and take a big breather. I kind of can’t believe so much time has passed since I made that big decision, and I’m still glad I did it when I did. I fell into some lucky contracts that really gave me the confidence to keep doing what I enjoyed, and the opportunities continue to grow. I still find myself reflecting back on the years I spent at my last job and I have a pretty solid personal understanding of why the conventional 9-5 wasn’t the best fit for me; it wasn’t so much the office or commute (just a lil), but I’ve learned that I’m fueled by much different incentives than they were able to offer, and I’m so much more productive being able to embrace my own pace and work style. I love it, you guys. Of course, now as I’m approaching what would have been my second paid maternity leave I’m a little miffed at myself for being in a position where I have to get by without those benefits (basically that means zero maternity leave, working during baby naps), but aside from that, whatever. At least I’m not going to be installing floors the day that I go into labor this time around, or stressing about a blog post I wanted to publish when I’m only 3 days postpartum. It’s worth it, and all I can do is hope-hope-hope I can sustain what I’ve been working on for the last few years.

These days? I’m still freelancing and taking on special contract projects, and of course, working on ways to take this here b-l-o-g to a place where it could further substantiate my income, although my own blog sure does take a backseat to everything else. I enjoy it and the passive income it provides, but the odds of me winning the lottery are better than me making the blog my sole, full-time focus. That said, I love that Merrypad can be a space where I can continue to journal my home improvement efforts and DIY projects in a no-pressure kind of way (which is all it really expected of it when I started). I like what it’s become.

Thanks to the many of you who have been following along since the early days, and for the support everyone has shown over the years.

Keeping Tabs on All of the Keepsakes

May 10, 2016   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY, Merry Travels, Organized   //  By: Emily   //  2 responses

Amongst the actual souvenirs that we pick up on our travels, I also hold on to a lot of the smaller mementos. I’m talking the maps, ticket stubs, postcards, bar coasters, and restaurant menus that we accumulate as we explore.

I’ve never really had a great way to store all of these items, unless you count putting them on the fridge for two months and then cramming the treasures into a small box on a shelf in the basement. It’s not that it was a bad system (at least they were in one place) but as they say, ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ and I really wanted a way to present the memories in our home not so much for others, but as a casual reminder of the fun stuff we’ve done as a family.

As it happened, Pete and I stopped for a lunch break at IKEA on the way home from a recent road trip to North Carolina (a food-tastic weekend with lots of good grub from our fave PBS personalities at Chef & The Farmer). The break at IKEA was anything but food-tastic (forget a 40-minute wait for meatballs – we settled on cool pizza and lingonberry) but we left enough time to peruse the IKEA marketplace and pick up a few goodies.

One of the items I knew I wanted was a 19-3/4″ x 19-3/4″ RIBBA shadowbox picture frame for this little hack – making a framed, shadowbox-style home for all of our vacation keepsakes.

My little scheme was to route an opening in the top of the picture frame, like a mail slot, through which we could easily deposit the items we collect and let them accrue and settle into the frame.

Assuming you want to know the truth, I gave this a test run on an older 9″ x 9″ RIBBA that we weren’t currently using and it was such an abomination that I was almost certain that this project would be a bust. The router is a tricky beast to wield and as much as I love to use it for projects, it sometimes has a mind of its own, even when I’m using it with a straight-edge. I prefer my palm router to the heavier plunge router that we own because it’s easier to hold and control. My first attempt was to clamp the bottom of the square frame to the workbench and route directly into the top of the frame as it stood upright. I predrilled a hole for the router to bore through, but once I plunged the router, it only took the first .25-seconds of reverberation to obliterate the frame into four pieces. Well, crap. I took the opportunity to use the remaining three pieces of frame, clamp them more directly to the workbench (with a open space beneath so the router could plunge completely), and tested my ability to make an even, perfect cut in the edge of the frame. Not good, not good at all.

How not to route an opening into the edge of an IKEA ribba frame.

One might advise that if you can’t do it right after four attempts, maybe you should come up with a Plan B but I didn’t follow that logic. I was out of frames to test on and didn’t have any scrap wood that I felt like destroying, and decided to go for the gold on the real picture frame.

I removed the backing, glass, and the spacer insert that makes the frame into a shadowbox, and clamped the exterior frame down onto the table so that there was no wiggle room – especially with the undeniable reverberation of the power tool. A piece of painter’s tape created a barrier to protect the frame from potential router scratches as I dragged the tool along the edge.

Using a router to cut through a IKEA RIBBA frame.

This is the part where I was so certain I’d mess up that I didn’t bother trying to take a photo or video, and all I can say is that I paid a lot of attention in keeping the straight edge firmly against the frame as I plunged and made the cut. One opportunity = perfection.

Using a router to cut through a IKEA RIBBA frame.

Next, I had to match up the insert for the shadowbox and create a matching cut; this was a little less nerve-wracking because I knew it would be hidden, unlike the line that needed to look perfect on the outer edge of the frame. Still a damn good job for having had so many preceding failures.

Using a router to cut through a IKEA RIBBA frame.

Some of the edges where I cut were still a little ragged, but a piece of fine sandpaper completely smoothed them out. I reassembled the frame, and hung it on the wall in our hallway.

Now, whenever we have a memento to store, we can just drop those items into the top and let them fall where they may. (Yes, we went to see the elusive Daniel Tiger last weekend.)

Create a shadowbox picture frame for travel keepsakes.

We’ve already taken it down off the wall a few times to shake-shake-shake the contents so they fall in a different order, to keep the presentation fresh. All in all, it’s an easy way to contain our travel keepsakes not ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and I love that it’s a collection that will continue to grow as we explore more and more. In a pinch, we can easily open the frame from the back and look at something if we want to show anyone a certain map, or re-read the postcards (when we’re on vaca, we pick up a postcard for each day and write a short note about what it was that we experienced and enjoyed).

Create a shadowbox picture frame for travel keepsakes.

The scale of the frame is perfect for our bedroom hallway – a great place where we can all enjoy it.

Create a shadowbox picture frame for travel keepsakes.



May 04, 2016   //  Posted in: Backyard   //  By: Emily   //  9 responses

First of all, thanks for hanging out with me as I spent the last few months publishing old posts (and especially for bearing through the last few weeks of fall/holiday content… I really tried to force-fit those projects into a shorter timeframe so that no one was overly inundated with Halloween and Christmas projects for weeks and weeks, but I realize that getting 5-10 posts a day was probably overwhelming… and it made me eyeroll at myself.)

Anyways… I’m back!

And what have I been doing? Lots of stuff, but let’s start with the broad topic of nature. I’ve been watching a family of robins build a nest in the Rhododendron located just 2 feet outside our living room window. In terms of showcasing their natural instincts, these birdies actually picked a pretty solid spot. It’s dry (beneath the eave), well-camo’ed from predators, and in a location that other forms of wildlife don’t often approach (not even Cody would get to the babies if they fell from the nest). Oh, except for the fact that they’re just realizing that HUMAN BEINGS are going to be a CONSTANT DISRUPTION to their routine. Mama Robin doesn’t seem to like us yet. And for that… sorry Charlie, hope you guys adapt to having setting up camp so close to curious eyes.

On Thursday we noticed the birds assessing the area, and by Friday morning there were a few branches in position so I set up the camera all weekend and snapped photos periodically to document its growth. Just yesterday morning I caught them in the nest and not too terrified by my presence – it looks like they’re getting the place move-in ready, and we’re probably not too far from being able to drag a chair up to the window and peek inside at the eggs.

Robins building a nest in our rhododendron, a 5 day sequence.

We had robins living in a nest in our pergola at the old house and learned a lot watching them care for the babies, so I hope this is a fun opportunity to be eye-witnesses to their habits and growth.

In other wildlife news, we’re also hosting a nest of vulture eggs in the barn (effing vultures!), which really puts our tiny Robin’s nest in perspective. Our barn, which is built on the side of a steep embankment has gone through its share of maintenance and repairs in the last few years, in part to shoo a family of vultures who considered the space home via access through a hole in its roof. The barn’s a two-story structure; the “upper” level is what we access most often, while the “lower” level sits partially underground, with windows and doors that overlook the woodsy embankment. The lower level of the barn is a space we still haven’t spent a lot of time or money, it’s still structured as stables from when the previous owners raised horses on the property.

Anyways, vultures.

As we periodically do, Pete was looking around in the lower level of the barn over the weekend, scoping out who or what may have taken refuge there over the winter, when he realized that one of the windows was broken and GIANT ANGRY BIRD, GET OUT NOW, FAST.

Pete thought that the bird was trapped in there during the winter and needed help getting out, so it wasn’t until he returned armed with an evacuation strategy that included a broom and a garbage can lid shield (painting a good picture?) that he saw the nest and two giant eggs nestled inside. Well, crap. Vultures have good instincts too, because even though this nest was very much accessible at ground level (not in a high peak like a church steeple, or on a cliffside), with the doors to the barn shut and locked, not even a squirrel could have easily gained access through the only opening, the broken window.

Assuming you’re not familiar with the breeding tendencies of these giant birds, we’re counting on these eggs and the resulting offspring to be holding up our ability to access the lower level barn for the next 2-3 months (maybe more, maybe less depending on when the eggs actually came to be). The conservationist with whom we spoke suggested we just leave them be since Turkey Vultures are really only looking for carnage (not apt to snatch our toddler from the ground or bother us in any way). And technically, the DEC says it’s illegal to move the nest or eggs, so even if we can get near the eggs again without getting pooped on, there’s not really anything we can do. We’ll do our thing and let them do theirs and live harmoniously so no one is too pissed off. Those birds have a wingspan as wide as I am tall, you know? Not about to mess with them.

The good news? We’re about to be hosts to some of the most ugly-cute little birds you’ll ever see. I hope I can sneak a picture as good as this. (Photo courtesy of Roberta Dell’Anno)

Hope to see one of these baby turkey vultures myself; this photo was taken by Roberta Dell'Anno. Thanks Roberta!

While we’re talking about nesting, I might as well put this right here:

Baby coming 2016.

A totally different kind of nesting to be done inside and out over the course of the next 2 months!