Posts Tagged ‘Parents’

Make a safety gate for stairs without damaging the bannister

09 Aug

Stair gate overviewGates at the top of a flight of stairs are essential to save toddlers from a nasty fall, and they are fairly easy to install in most homes if there is a wall on each side of the stairs. However, the bottom of a flight of stairs (and sometimes the top, too) often has a bannister on one side. In my house, we installed a traditional gate at the top of the stairs for safety, but at the foot of the stairs, one side of the stairs has a handmade wooden bannister, and the other side has a wall of faux brick; holes in either side here would be tougher to repair than holes in wood paneling or drywall. If you don’t want to drill holes and damage your bannister and walls, you’ll need a more creative gate.

My gates consists of two layers of cloth stitched together with a layer of cotton batting in the middle. The right and left edges have large grommets that can be attached to a post or hook with cable ties, carabiners, or other fasteners. I wrapped black cloth around our newel post to protect it from scratches, and I attached one end of the gate to the post using black cable ties. The other side is the side that can be opened; it attaches to the wall with a carabiner through an eye hook and with two removable Command Cord Bundlers ( They use a removable adhesive, so they will not leave a hole behind when they are removed. I used cable ties to create loops to connect the grommets to the cord bundlers.

Stair gate on newel postStair gate carabiner attachment

Please note that this gate is not a foolproof safety solution; it is a deterrent to keep children from entering the stairs unnoticed. Kids can learn to open the gate, and they can also peel the cord bundlers off the wall if they push the gate hard enough. My daughter did both of these things eventually…but by that point, she was confident on the stairs and didn’t need as much protection. The gate still functioned as a deterrent; it slowed her down enough that she couldn’t run upstairs without someone noticing.

Taking down the gate for good is easy: cut the cable ties from the newel post, peel the cord bundlers off the wall, unscrew the eye hook from the baseboard, and patch the single hole in the baseboard. This homemade gate leaves only one hole, which should be a lot easier and less conspicuous to repair than trying to patch multiple holes in the newel post and faux brick.

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Make an airtight diaper pail for less than $5

23 Feb

Homemade, airtight diaper pailsFor me, the benefits of cloth diapers (saving money, avoiding blowouts, and reducing trash output) easily outweigh the inconveniences (washing, stuffing, and storing the diapers). However, storing three days worth of smelly diapers requires several effective diaper pails to keep the house from smelling like a litter box. Diaper pails can be surprisingly expensive, though, so you may want to make your own like I did. Why spend $30 on one bin when you can have a whole fleet of them for less than half that much?

For less than $5, you can make a diaper pail that will easily hold a day’s worth of diapers; I use three of these bins in different locations around the house so we never have to carry a dirty diaper very far. It is a simple matter of buying two identical trash cans and making minor modifications so one trashcan can serve as the lid for the other.

Tools and materials:

  • Two FNISS wastebaskets from IKEA ($1.99 each as of this moment)
  • Cabinet knob
  • Foam pipe insulation
  • Utility knife
  • Drill
  • Duct tape or gaffer’s tape

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Cloth diapers: better, cheaper, and a bit more work

07 Feb

Diapers and dinosaur modelIf you have a baby in need of diapers, you might be surprised at how easy cloth diapering can be. I have been using cloth diapers on my daughter for five months and have only good things to report. In my experience, cloth diapers have been better than disposable diapers on nearly all levels. I’ll admit that disposable diapers are simpler and more convenient than their reusable counterparts, but they also seem to have more leaks and blow-outs, too, which is far from convenient. Just as important to me: I’m on track to save hundreds of dollars on diapers this year alone because washing diapers is cheaper than buying disposable ones.

There are lots of brands out there and a lot of choices to make. I’ll explain how I chose these diapers and how to use, wash, and maintain them.

What kind of diapers to get: The diapers shown here are the bumGenius “Cloth Diaper 4.0 One-Size” model. This style of diaper comes in two parts: a sturdy shell with elastic and fasteners to hold it on, and a removable microfiber pad that fits inside to absorb any liquid and keep the shell leak-free. Two-part reusable diapers are common these days, but there are also all-in-one diapers that let you skip the step of stuffing the pad into the shell before you use it. I prefer the two-part variety because I can dry the shell and the pad separately. Line-drying the shells makes their elastic and quick-drying capabilities last longer, while the pads will dry quickly in any dryer with no ill consequences. The pocket style also lets me stuff in an extra pad when desired, such as for overnight or traveling.

Diapers on drying rack Diapers and inserts Pile of diapers

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Customized moving dolly for transporting wine

22 Dec

Wine dolly - assembledMy father uses the crawlspace beneath his house as a wine cellar. The problem with the crawlspace is the crawling part. Between the rough edges, the dust, and the low clearance, the crawlspace leaves every visitor filthy and sore from waddling around in a painful squat. To make delivering and retrieving wine a bit easier, my father kept a creeper (the sort of low, wheeled platform that mechanics use to roll themselves underneath cars) in the crawlspace. You could kneel on it and scoot around, and it made lugging cases of wine a lot simpler. It cracked in half years ago from heavy use, with the obvious demand for a replacement just ignored.

This year, I decided a new solution was in order. For Christmas, I put together this customized moving dolly to replace the broken creeper (I gave it to my father yesterday, so it’s safe to reveal now). The base with the wheels is a moving dolly, which you can find at a hardware store. This one is rated to 1,000 pounds and feels sturdy enough to last for decades. By itself, though, the dolly is not an effective transporter of wine. The opening in the middle is too wide for cases or bottles. The center of gravity is also a bit trickier, since the dolly has a higher ground clearance and can be flipped by leaning too heavily on the front or rear edge.

Wine dolly - two partsTo help with both issues, I built the rig inside the dolly out of familiar-looking scrap wood from Ikea. The slats are spaced close together to prevent wine bottles from slipping through and are bowed downward, preventing wine from rolling off. The additional weight in the middle of the dolly also reduces the chance of tipping it by accident. The rig itself is not nearly as strong as the dolly, of course, but it is completely removable. I made no changes to the original dolly, so you can lift the rig out and use the dolly to move furniture if desired.

You could borrow this concept for all kinds of mobile storage or transportation functions. The whole setup cost less than a creeper would have and yet is more versatile. A dolly can save your back a lot of agony when you’re moving heavy objects. Come to think of it, my cases of cider are just crying out for some wheels.


Convincing your parents to get a TiVo Premiere and explaining how to set it up

06 Jun

TiVo logoIf your friends or relatives ask for your advice on their new HDTV, you can just send them here. I already wrote out the directions, so you might as well use them.

Friends don’t let friends watch nothing but standard-definition on an HDTV. I owed my parents no less, I thought. Forget that they have always resisted my campaigns to have them buy new gadgets that I thought they would enjoy. As always, this was for their own good.

They took to the DVR revolution rather well. It didn’t take them long to fall in love with their original TiVo (Series 2) and fill it with episodes of NCIS and WWII specials. Getting them to transition to a larger TV took longer, but now they’re equally thrilled with that, too.

It follows that I, never content to let them remain happy with what they have, pointed out that they still needed a new cable box or TiVo to actually watch anything in HD. I saw no point suggesting a Blu-ray player (DVDs are plenty) or a mere antenna (no going back once you’ve had a DVR). I figured their brand loyalty would make TiVo the best option, since cable-company DVRs never work as smoothly. I left out BluRay, media computers, and the old-fashioned antenna actual insisted that they needed an HD TiVo. Read the rest of this entry »