Solstice Special: Force Your Kids to Sleep Later with Customized Roller Shades

I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE. But first, I need all parents of young children to cover their ears. Everyone else, listen up: My children are really good sleepers. Not because I’m a great parent, but because (like me), my kids are lazy and derive genuine, soul-expanding pleasure from hours of unconsciousness. Just how good are they at sleeping? Sam (now 4), started sleeping through the night after one month. Which is especially impressive since at the time – due to an unfortunate real estate situation – his crib was in the dining room.* My children sleep through parties, sirens, fireworks and hailstorms. Estelle has been known to fall asleep in a puddle of her own vomit. I’m not sure why I’m proud of that.


This is how they trick you into keeping them.

But the one thing that wakes them up is the bright morning sun. This being June in the northern hemisphere, the sun is up before 5:00 a.m., bringing my kids with it. A few times we’ve groggily ordered them to get dressed, which may result in some little boy getting tangled up in his underwear (both legs in the same hole again?). We might tell them to go make their own breakfast, which means that they start the day with a heaping bowl of peanut butter, jelly, raisins and chocolate chips.  Or worse: file photoMy neighbors Liz and David, who have their own early-rising little boy, recently procured a alarm clock that turns green when it’s OK for him to leave his room in the morning.  Early results have been mixed, proving that even the cutest and most high-tech solutions may not be powerful enough to persuade a Two-Year-Old Morning Person.

magic clock

Note the absurd “suggested” wake time of 7:00 am. 

There has to be a better way to get these kids to sleep longer!  Deep down I knew the solution would involve 1) a trip to the hardware store, and 2) a can of spray paint. STEP ONE – BUY STUFF:  Measure your window and make the hardware store cut you a custom-sized roller shade – the really thick “blackout” kind. They ain’t pretty, but they block light far better than blinds or curtains. Here’s the kids’ window with the plain old vanilla blackout shade installed: IMG_6094Such a passive, cowering shade. Nothing we can’t fix with a couple cans of fabric & vinyl spray paint: Picture 036Long-time Projectophile readers may remember this paint from the chevron roller shades I made for our last apartment. This time I had to order the paint online – I couldn’t find any fabric spray paint in a recent trip to the suburbs, though you might have better luck at an Auto Parts Store (just not in Chicago where spray paint is outlawed). As you can see from the label, this stuff was invented so people could spray paint car seats, for some reason.  Or maybe that’s a dentist chair. If so, you could look for some at your local Dentist’s Supply Store. And before you leave the hardware store, grab a roll of any color contact paper. STEP TWO – LETTERS:  Lay the contact paper flat on a piece of cardboard or some other surface you don’t mind scratching (so, not on your vintage dining table or on your lap). Measure out some “boxes” so your letters are roughly the same size. IMG_6102Think hard about what you want to say in your shades. Be concise and direct.  If there is an “S” in your message, you may want to rethink your message, cause S’s* are impossible to draw.  The best I could come up with was “GO TO SLEEP.”  I briefly considered “REMAIN UNCONSCIOUS” but that phrase has 2 S’s, and if one of the kids ever fell into a coma I would feel really bad about having those shades up. If you must use the letter S, grab your preschooler’s writing homework for guidance. IMG_6098If your message includes two or more of the same letter, draw them next to each other to maximize uniformity.  Your message won’t be taken seriously if one “O” has a fat bottom and the other a fat top.


I apologize in advance if the word “goots” is an offensive slang term that I’m not yet aware of. Cause it kind of sounds like it.

Use a scissors to cut out the square-ish letters, and an X-Acto knife for the more squiggly ones. If you plan to write your message in, say, Arabic, or Malayalam, definitely use the X-Acto knife.IMG_6101STEP THREE – STENCIL AND PAINT:   Arrange the letters on your shade. I suggest sticking them as low as possible, so the message is still visible even at half-mast. IMG_6104 Lay your shade down over a tarp, strap on your face mask, and start spraying. IMG_6110Spray in continuous, thin, even coats. Imagine that your shade is a parched landscape thirsty for rain. A misty drizzle will quench the thirst, but a torrential downpour will cause erosion, flooding, and also gooey, rubbery paint blobs that will never dry. Here we are after about five minutes of gentle, patient spraying: IMG_6119….After another five minutes. Note the empty can tossed to the side. Time to crack open another one: IMG_6120Another half can of paint and we’re done! IMG_6121STEP FOUR – THE BIG REVEAL:  Wait for 30 minutes, then carefully peel off the letters and squeal with delight at your accomplishment. IMG_6124Leave the shade to off-gas overnight. Discreetly hang it in the window while your children are away or distracted, then casually pull it down for their next nap. IMG_6130The know-it-all kindergartener will suggest that you add an exclamation point. Or at least SOME kind of punctuation, like a real sentence. IMG_6128See, the message still works at half-mast: IMG_6137It’s difficult to capture how dark it gets in their room with my crummy camera, but this may give you an idea: IMG_6143Yawn. Is anyone else feeling really drowsy right now? ——————————————————————— * Parenting tip: Try not to have multiple babies in the middle of a worldwide financial and housing crisis. ** Normally I frown on using possessive apostrophes to indicate a plural. But when expressing multiples of the letter S, it’s important not to confuse your reader, who may think that you are talking about the armed wing of the Nazi Party, or the sound of snakes, neither of which are endorsed by Projectophile, its subsidiaries or affiliates.

Don’t Just Stand There! Five New Desks to Fit Your Active Lifestyle

Experts say sitting is the new smoking.  And for the past two years, I’ve felt pretty darn smug about all the hours I spend working upright at my DIY standing desk: 

Picture 112BUT – How much you wanna bet that those even smuggier experts will soon declare that STANDING is the new deep-fried heroin candy bar?

Since we all struggle to find the time for both office work AND exercise, Projectophile [me] has teamed up with King Crow Comics [Scott] to launch five new work desks to fit your Active Lifestyle.*


jumping sans caption2)  SQUATTING DESK:

squatting sans caption3) CLIMBING DESK:

climbing sans caption4) KNEELING DESK:

Kneeling sans caption5) HANGING DESK:

hanging desk sans caption6) SWIMMING DESK:

swimming sans captionRight now you’re thinking, “I need a poster of all of these desks to hang in my office!” You’re in luck, because King Crow Comics [Scott] at this very minute is at Kinko’s printing up a bunch of beautiful full-color 11″x17″ prints, like this one:

Desk poster 300 low rezTo buy your own, visit Scott/King Crow at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo on June 6-7.  Or email me directly at
Ideas and lettering: Clare @projectophile
Artwork: Scott @krollcrow
*  Active Lifestyles may be Actual or Aspirational.
** Projectophile, King Crow Comics, and their wholly or partially-owned subsidiaries shall not be held liable for any death, injury or embarrassment that may occur from use of these desks. By laughing, chuckling, chortling, or even politely smiling, the reader agrees that this is just a joke and not real at all, even though it’s on the Internet.

Welcome to Babuskha Island: Your Oasis in a Sea of Not-Having-Counterspace

Won’t you join me in a trip to an exotic, blissful place… where counter space is ample, and storage is plentiful? A magic place where I don’t have to dice onions over the sink, or suffer the humiliation of a Tupperware™ avalanche every time I slide open the cabinet door?

I’ve been dreaming of a Babushka Kitchen Island for at least a couple of months, to replace our “Babushka Cafe” – an old patio table and two chairs that the old lady left behind. It was fine for the kids’ breakfast or a romantic cup of coffee with Scott, but added nothing in the way of workspace or storage. IMG_5792Last week, I finally revealed my Kitchen Island Idea to Scott, who I then had to shepherd through the Four stages of Project Acceptance:
Stage 1 – Balking: That’s a crazy idea and will never work and besides we don’t need it.
Stage 2 – Curiosity + Intrigue: Maybe that will work. Go ahead and try; just don’t ask me to help.
Stage 3 – Grudging Acceptance: You’ve already gotten this far, you may as well finish.
Stage 4 – Enthusiastic Acceptance: Sometimes accompanied by Project Penance (This  New Thing is life-changing and I’m sorry I ever doubted you) or even Project Idea Identity Theft (I’m so glad I thought of this and you finally got around to making it).

To move Scott from Stage 1 to 2, I set up this “prototype” with painters’ tape, milk crates and the lid of a cooler.  I topped the whole setup with fresh baked cookies to create a positive, even Pavlovian, association with the island concept. 20150503_130649Once Scott made it to Stage 2.5 , I just scanned Craigslist for the perfect kitchen island.  I learned the hard way that islands only come in two sizes: 1) tiny microwave cart, or 2) massive suburban-style beastie, a/k/a, the “aircraft carrier.” islandcollage2red xThis Goldilocks couldn’t find one that was just right. So, as usual [dramatic sigh], I had to just make it my own damn self — by combining an old dresser, a new butcher block, and a little bit of dazzle. Here’s how I did it…

STEP ONE – Get a Dresser:  Once I settled on the dimensions, I found the perfect dresser on Craigslist — a used IKEA Hemnes.  The transaction was smooth enough, except the part where I watched this guy pull his underwear out of the drawers.* Dude had a whole dresser just for underwear! And later that day I discovered – a lot of spiders. 20150503_122030I needed this thing to be white. So I gave it a light sanding, and then one coat of oil-based primer. 20150503_162936Before I painted it, I drilled extra holes in the drawers to accommodate the new chrome pulls I bought to match the sink and Hoosier cabinet. IMG_6002Next, everything got two coats of white latex paint, and then three coats of polycrylic. IMG_6008IMG_6023STEP TWO – Bedazzle your Backside:  Like a TV news anchor or post-modern architecture**, a clothes dresser was designed to only be seen from the front. This dresser’s backside was a pathetic, flimsy, MDF board afterthought. And since the backside was the new frontside, I had to make it both functional and delightful. I turned to the nearby Upcycled Recycling Center for inspiration: IMG_5669I bought a bunch of 1.5″ wide pine slats at the hardware store, and dipped into the same can of paint I used for the recycling center slats (and also the mail box and my hubcaps). IMG_6022I tipped the dresser on its side to arrange my slats in a pleasing manner over the crappy backside: IMG_6042 Next, I secured the slats to the solid wood frame using a pneumatic nail gun that we borrowed from our friend Tamra so long ago I’m embarrassed to even mention it (Hi Tamra! Happy Birthday!) IMG_6056The nail gun shrank my nailing time by about 90%. Best of all, the compressor motor looks like a poodle! nail gun or poodleSTEP THREE – Counter top:  I needed a counter top that was heavy enough for kitchen duty, and big enough to provide knee room for casual breakfast-eaters and kitchen loiterers (you know who you are). I dreamed of making my own counter by joining together several perfect hardwood boards. I borrowed a biscuit joiner and headed to the hardware store to buy the lumber. And then my heart stopped when I saw this: butcherblock arrowA perfectly-sized, unfinished butcher block that was significantly cheaper than the boards! I called Scott in a panic, “Would you think less of me if I just bought this butcher block instead of making my own?!” His response was approximately, “What the *$&# do I care? Come home and eat lunch.”

Next I had to decide whether to finish the butcher block or keep it “raw,” which would require monthly oiling. I’m not nearly responsible enough for “monthly oiling,” so I decided to keep the lovely light wood color and seal it with five coats of polycrylic. Remember to give it a good sanding and wipe-down before you coat, and then lightly sand with 220-grit sandpaper between coats.  And clear coat both sides so there’s no water absorption from spills. You know you’re finished when it looks like a bowling alley! 20150520_141803 I unscrewed and removed the existing dresser top, and arranged the new butcher block in place – flush with the drawer side and the wall side, with ample overhang on the other “public” sides. I carefully marked the screw holes by jabbing them with a pencil. 20150520_214304I drilled new screw holes on the underside of the butcher block, flipped it over and screwed back into place.  Slide the drawers back in, and…. IMG_6065Choose where to place your new Tupperware™ graveyard: IMG_6062… and drag a stool out of the alley to complete the look! IMG_6071IMG_6066Let’s just hope Babuskha Island gets along with its yellow-striped cousin Recycling Center: IMG_6073The first kid home from school today got to eat the inaugural snack (an over-ripe banana): it works Who then asked… “Mama, why is the kitchen so clean?”————————————————————————————
Free Craigslist Tip: Remove all your personal belongings from a storage item before the customer comes to see it. Especially if your belongings are tighty-whities with lots of cocoa stains.
**  I’m looking at you, Harold Washington Library in Chicago.

Is there a Hoosier in Your Kitchen? Take This Free Online Quiz to Find Out

Today, everyone’s a winner, because all three of these answers are correct! I realize this is awfully confusing, so please, let me explain.

I grew in St. Louis, Missouri, a mid-sized mid-western city. Even though we weren’t cut off from the rest of civilization by, say… an unpassable mountain range, or 5,000 miles of ocean, St. Louisans have developed our own unique and often perplexing culture. Our steaks are made of pork; we deep fry our ravioli. St. Louis children must tell jokes on Halloween before candy is released. In school, we learned that the St.Louis World’s Fair of 1904 was the apex of innovation, because this is where the ice cream cone was invented. You’d all still be eating ice cream out of bowls right now – like savages – if it weren’t for St. Louis and our culture of advanced dessert engineering.

Like other lost civilizations, St. Louis developed our own secret dialect, which includes the word “Hoosier.” In St Louisian, Hoosier is an insult, but it has nothing to do with Indiana. In fact, most of us have never even heard of Indiana (it may as well be one of those other “I” states like Idaho or Ithaca). A Hoosier is related to a Redneck, but he’s not agricultural; he lives in town. He’s not from a particular ethnic group, because every family has at least one.*  The St. Louis band MU330 says it best in their hit song, “Hoosier Love:”

Peach fuzz mustache, butt cut, El Camino pick-up truck, Aerosmith, Loverboy, Motley Crue. Holding hands just me and you. We don’t need no high school! (No high school, we’re too cool!) We’ll have kids at seventeen, getting laid at Dairy Queen.

It wasn’t until I was 23 years old and newly living in Chicago that I learned the hard way that – to the rest of the world – a Hoosier is simply a person from Indiana. Oops. Sorry, Lisa. Your hair is great!

Fifteen years later I discovered the third definition of a Hoosier, as in the kitchen cabinet. I desperately needed some proper counter space to fill the gap between the fridge and the stove, occupied by an old Ikea desk:

IMG_5789After browsing Craigslist for weeks, I scored this vintage Hoosier cabinet for $70. Scott hopped in the cargo bike to pick it up, in the middle of a rainstorm:**

cabinet in cargo bikeIn order to amuse my St. Louis friends and family, from here on I will now refer to the cabinet simply as “the Hoosier.” Because there’s one in every family.  The Hoosier fit well into the gap-toothed smile of my kitchen, but it still needed work. Here’s what I did:


The upper left side drawer is what’s called a “bread drawer,” a typical feature of the Hoosier, from a time when homemade bread was important enough for its own all-metal executive suite. This particular drawer is also a great way to give your family tetanus via sandwiches.

IMG_5986I scrubbed out the rust with a wire brush, and painted the bottom with an oil-based protective enamel paint, specifically for metal, which I already owned.

IMG_5989My store-bought loaf is feeling a little inadequate in this cathedral to yeasty goodness. Maybe I’ll just store towels in there.


The Hoosier had three more big flaws: 1) it was not quite tall enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the stove, 2) it was blocking a wall vent near the floor, and 3) it was hard to move. Why would we need to move a Hoosier? Because within the first two days of owning the Hoosier, we dropped about 30 grapes, half a cheese sandwich and some child’s school pictures behind it.

The answer to our all Hoosier problems is (are?) CASTERS!  Present-Day-Me is so grateful that Me-From-A-Year-Ago yanked these casters off some junky furniture in the alley, just in case I might need them someday. Because that someday is today!***

IMG_5982I flipped the Hoosier over and drilled holes in the bottom of its legs (feet?), starting with a small drill bit and gradually getting bigger, as not to shock and crack the surrounding wood.

IMG_5983Since the top pins weren’t threaded, I wanted to make the casters extra secure. I filled the holes up with caulk and then pushed the casters in, wiping away the excess caulk that oozed out the sides.


IMG_6001I let the caulk set for an hour before flipping the Hoosier back over and rolling into place:

IMG_5994A perfect fit.  And look at all this extra storage! I no longer have to store my mismatched Tupperware and ratty old dish towels out in the open like a… well… a Hoosier.

IMG_5995To celebrate another milestone in the progress of the Babuska kitchen, I assembled this cheesy photo collage from the last six months:

kitchen memory collage

A microwave on a stack of stolen milk crates?!  Now, that’s HOOSIER!————————————————————————
* If you don’t know who the Hoosier is in your family, it’s probably you.
** Our marriage contract specifies that Scott must appear at least once in every blog post, either as the hero of the story, or in the act of doing something that would “make all the other husbands look bad in comparison.”
*** If I ever run for political office or become an inspirational speaker, my slogan will be “Someday is Today!”

Five Easy Steps to Make your House Look Slightly Less Abandoned

Every block in an older neighborhood has that one house. You know the one I’m talking about – the house that nobody ever comes out of or goes into. The grey, torpid structure with the sagging porch, the creeping vines; You can almost smell the mothballs from the street. The one that’s TOTALLY HAUNTED.

As a child, you threw rocks at this house, or rang the doorbell just to see who would answer it (and then promptly hid in the bushes).  Yup, that’s the house that we bought.

IMG_5224I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me.  After we moved in, Scott and I spent many evenings on the front porch eating ice cream, just to show our new neighbors that the house was occupied by actual living people (who now live directly behind a Baskin-Robbins!). Would ghosts eat ice cream, outside, in December? No. Ghosts hate being cold.

Now that spring is here, I’m even more self-conscious about our neglected Babushka House. We’re slowly saving up for big renovations like windows and siding. In the meantime, I discovered few small, nearly free improvements that – like a shot of atropine into an unresponsive patient – could quickly bring signs of life to our front porch.

These improvements fall into two categories: 1) Out with the Old, and 2) In with the New.


 • TEAR DOWN ORNAMENTAL CLIMBING VINES:  A TV series called “Life After People” predicts how nature will reclaim our human structures after we all mysteriously disappear. I’ve never actually seen the show, but I’ll go ahead and spoil it for you: After the humans are gone, plants start growing on and in the buildings.  Oh look, here’s an example:

IMG_5962I don’t care if those vines are alive or dead (ours were dead). Tear it down. It’s tremendously satisfying.

 • DISMANTLE “OLD LADY” GRILLS:  These door and window grills recall a forgotten era – when fussy, ornate ironwork was all the rage, and when our neighborhood’s (and the nation’s) crime rate was a wee bit higher.

IMG_5953Fussy and ornate is clearly not my style. But even if it was, the metal was tarnished and crusty with age:

IMG_5954 Two minutes with a screwdriver was all it took. Which is why these make no sense as a security measure, either.


 • MAKEOVER THE MAILBOX:  Yes, the Babushka’s mailbox is perfectly good. It holds mail, and is squeaky enough to provide a audible clue that the person stomping around on my front porch is the mail carrier.  But the faded paint and rusty patina are the opposite of cheerful:

IMG_5867Unscrew the mailbox from your wall. Don’t be spooked by what appears to be the capital of a small but prosperous Spider City-State.

IMG_5872 Evict the spider village, scrape off the rust with a wire brush, wipe clean, and apply a coat of white primer:

IMG_5893Next, apply a coat of bright yellow oil-based paint. Loyal readers may remember this can of paint from my Upcycled Hubcap and Upcycled Recycling Center* projects; it’s like sunshine in a can:

IMG_5914IMG_5929  • BRIGHTLY-COLORED PATIO FURNITURE:  You need a throne on which to eat your ice cream, it may as well add a pop of color** to your depressingly drab front porch.  These modern orange chairs will do the trick. Especially since we already owned them:

orangechairsPRO-TIP!  Say it with me – NO STUFFED FURNITURE ON YOUR FRONT PORCH. Nothing soft: no couches, loveseats, easy chairs or beanbags. Your house will look even more abandoned, or worse – occupied by squatters (if you’re looking for ours, they’re behind the garage). You can now buy furniture specifically for the outdoors, in smooth, nonporous materials and bright, eye-catching colors. And no, milk crates do not qualify as outdoor furniture.

 • SAN SERIF HOUSE NUMBERS:  Your house numbers are your home’s smile. Do you want your smile to be yellowed, cracked and ancient-looking?

house numbersOr fresh, bright, modern, and centered rationally in the middle of your face?

IMG_5961I stumbled upon these numbers while shopping for drill bits at a certain orange-colored big box store.  The numbers were too big for the existing plate, so I had to saw down and paint a piece of scrap wood. Which was a bit of work, but now my address even smells new.

And yes, creeps of the world, now you know my home address. Not sure why I bothered obscuring it in all those other pictures, since, if you’re reading this, you’re either a friend of mine or you live in Australia.

Time for the big reveal***:

IMG_5969And for added affect, let a small child run around in the front yard unsupervised, or frantically pound on the storm door at passersby:


“Yup,” they’ll all say. “Somebody definitely lives here now.”

* I will pay good money to anyone who can give me a synonym for “upcycled.”
** “Pop of color” is required to appear at least once in every home design blog.
*** Also, every home design blog has to have at least one “big reveal” per post, even if it’s really just a bunch of little reveals.

15 Things NOT to Say to Someone who Just Bought a Fixer-Upper

My lovely friend Amanda just bought a house for her and her daughters in our neighborhood. We joked that the house must be the little sister of our Babushka house:  same narrow Chicago lot, same bay windows and faux brick asphalt siding, same recently deceased old lady owner; but slightly smaller and 7 years younger. And let’s face it, a hell of a lot cuter:

Babushka and doll houseI call it “The Dollhouse,” which describes the cuteness of both the house and its soon-to-be inhabitants.

And like our home, the Dollhouse “has potential.” That’s top-secret real estate code for “needs work.” But in my mind (here I commence rationalizing a major life decision), lovingly restoring an old city house is an expression of civic pride and a noble act of sustainability.  And most importantly for us, it was way cheaper than buying a newer house with, say, post-war electricity.*

Fixer-uppers certainly aren’t for everyone, and they may not be for you. But do us fixer-upper types a favor:  The next time you visit our house, try not to say any of these things:

  • You should tear down this wall.


  • I saw some human poop behind your garage.
  • I got a couple of buddies that could tear that garage/porch/dead tree down for you. Just give ‘em a case of beer and some chainsaws.
  • I’m sure the land is probably worth something.
  • Have you had your kids tested for lead poisoning yet?


  • You could always put an addition on the back.
  • Hmmm, it’s so very …. European!


  • I’m sure that smell will go away in the spring time… once you figure out how to open the windows.
  • At least you guys are handy [Bonus points for: “I’m sure your husband is handy”]
  • People were certainly a lot smaller when they built this house.


  • You have good health insurance, right?
  • I wonder how many people died in this house?


  • At least you don’t have to worry about thieves wanting to break into your house.
  • You know, asbestos is only dangerous if you actually breathe it in.
  • It’s so much more charming than a plain old rehab.


  • I’m sure the rats will scare away the homeless people. Or vice-versa.
  • It’s definitely not THE MOST ugly house on the block.
  • It’s so interesting to see how they did things before indoor plumbing was invented.


  • Your kids are probably old enough that the lead won’t do THAT much brain damage.
  • I saw this one TV show about house flippers where they …[insert anything here].
  • You’re gonna tear this whole place down, right?



 * I’ll let you decide which war I’m talking about. Because technically, the Korean War still hasn’t ended.

Surprise your Husband by Painting the Appliances

Welcome to another edition of the Projectophile series, “Yes, You Can Paint That!” where we find new and unusual things to paint.

This past weekend, Scott went on a trip by himself to a city multiple time zones away. It was the longest he’d been away from the family, and I marked the occasion by feeding the kids a lot of (fully cooked) frozen pizza, and sleeping sideways across our bed, sometimes with my shoes and the lights still on. I would make a terrible bachelor.

I wanted to surprise Scott when he got home. Not a “Surprise, I got my teeth fixed!” sort of way. More like, “That’ll teach you to leave me alone for 4 days with a fresh supply of white spray paint” sort of way. But in a good way.

Lately I had noticed something askew in our kitchen, color-wise. We’d managed to match the new fridge and shelving to the existing 1950s white sink, stove and cabinets. But then there was the microwave. The microwave already felt out of place in our (mostly) period kitchen, like a satellite dish in a Norman Rockwell painting.

IMG_5896_redcircleAnd worst of all, it was black, sucking all the gleaming whiteness out of the room.  Suddenly, while heating up another frozen pizza, a spray-paint shaped light bulb metaphorically appeared over my head. SPRAY PAINT!

IMG_5909Can you spray paint a microwave? Nobody really knows for sure – the Internet was silent on the issue* – so it was up to me to find out.

STEP ONE – PREPARE: Slide all the crap off the top of your microwave. For our family, the top of the fridge/microwave is the best spot to hide things from the kids, or hide things from ourselves, or from each other. You’d be amazed at what ends up in that sweet spot between adult arm-reach and adult eye-level: candy, permanent markers, past-due utility bills, but mostly candy.

Now give your microwave a sponge bath with dish soap and hot water. It has probably grown a thick coat of FurGrease™, my trademarked name for the grey layer of dust and debris that clings to the airborne grease on your exposed kitchen appliances.

IMG_5903Don’t forget to pull out the glass turntable, since it will inevitably fall out and shatter while you carry the microwave to your scary back porch. Try explaining that to your jet-setting husband.

Next, cover up any sensitive parts. I found it easiest just to tape off the front door and control panel, which attach to the body of the microwave in one continuous line. While that leaves some black showing, there’s also enough chrome to pay homage to the vintage stove.

IMG_5906Just before you grab the paint can, slip on your painting pants, or what Sam (age 3) now calls my “embarrassing pants,” because I refuse to pop out and say hi to the neighbors in the morning if I’m wearing them.


Complete the look with black wool socks under rubber sandals.

No – of course they’re not sweatpants from the bargain bin at Walgreen’s. I’d like to think of them as thick cotton “harem pants;”in this case the harem is full of antsy housewives and an ample supply of spray paint.

STEP TWO – PAINT:  Hold the can about a foot from the microwave and spray in a continuous, fluid motion. Don’t hover over a certain spot, keep it moving!

IMG_5910If possible, keep the paint flowing the entire time as you swoop over your appliance. You may start to feel an ache in your wrist—ignore it. Some of the best things in life cause sore wrists.

IMG_5911While you’re waiting for the paint to dry, go ahead and reheat that cup … uh, never mind. Enjoy a cup of room-temperature coffee!  After about an hour you can peel off the protection to see how you did:

IMG_5913Not bad! After a few more hours you can safely return the microwave to its perch on top of the fridge.

IMG_5916Time to admire your work from a few different angles, how it blends seamlessly in with the rest of the Babushka kitchen, as if the refrigerator were merely wearing a festive top-hat.

IMG_5926IMG_5924STEP THREE – WAIT FOR YOUR HUSBAND TO NOTICE:  This step can take anywhere from 12 hours to 6 months, based on the quality of your spouse.  For extra excitement, casually shake your head “no” when he finally asks, “Honey, was this microwave always white?”


*  Silence = acquiescence, but in a good way.