The Mess Hall

Rants and ramblings on all things edible, wearable, doable, or usable with a focus on Home and Health. Home is fun, easy on the wallet, and “gool” for the greatest game of tag ever (Life). Welcome to my home, the Mess Hall. Get in the Mess!

02 Mar

Surviving the polar vortex of my discontent

Posted in Craftin' on 02.03.14 by Octopi

Winter is tough, but we’re tougher! Hang in there fellow Snowbelters. We can do this! I’ve needed a bit of extra inspiration myself getting through these polar vortexes, so I thought I’d share some of the little things I make to cheer me up.


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05 Mar

Through the Stained Glass

Posted in Craftin' on 05.03.13 by Octopi

Through the Looking Stained Glass

This winter’s art project is also functional. The windows in the living room overlook a beautiful expanse of the neighboring building’s brick facade (to be read sarcastically). I can’t move the mountains of Colorado or the farm fields of Wisconsin next door, but I can still change that view.

Enter stained glass! Or not-quite-real stained glass. The finished product is a combination of Gallery Glass paint, a vision of a tree outside the window, and several weekends with a brush and some Netflix.

Behold: a sight for sore eyes!


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31 Dec

Pegboard: Channeling Julia

Posted in Build or Fix, Craftin', organization on 31.12.12 by Octopi

This is Pegboard Project #2. With Julia Child’s famous pegboard kitchen for inspiration, I spent a bit more quality time with the Dremel, local home improvement store, and the land of misfit projects that is my storage room to cobble this one together.

This type of organization works so well for my lifestyle I am now in danger of pegboarding my entire house. “Step away from the Dremel, Melissa….put that drill DOWN.”


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30 Dec

Bi-fold Pegboard

Posted in Build or Fix, Craftin', organization on 30.12.12 by Octopi

A man, a plan, a canal: bi-fold pegboard.

I have this bi-fold door separating the laundry room from the kitchen. Rather than continue to use the kitchen table as a landing pad for the mail, keys, and other daily crap, I ripped out the top bi-fold slats and replaced with pegboard! Behold organization!

I’ve got some pegboard left over that will at some point be painted and added to the kitchen wall, Julia-Child-style. To be continued…


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25 Nov

2D Christmas Tree

Posted in Craftin', Small Space on 25.11.12 by Octopi

As much as I love a real Christmas tree in the house, some years I don’t want to give up the space in my little condo for a fir-ry friend. This year I’ve decided to work in 2-D with some wall space.

The nice thing is that I still have a tree from “the woods” (a little spread of forested land that’s been in my family for several generations) because that’s where the birch tree branches are from.

The “tree” is ornamented with lace doilies crocheted by my Grandma, a gift from a good friend, and some simple hand-made ornaments out of felt and ribbon. It’s a bit more shabby chic than I typically prefer, but sometimes sentiment over-rides style!

Happy Holidays from the Mess Hall!


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14 Oct

Ergonomic sewing

Posted in Craftin', Healthy Body on 14.10.12 by Octopi

Hidey Ho there Mess Hallers (i.e. Mom and whatever random peeps stumble across this). This last year I’ve been focusing on alternative ways to approach holistic health. I’m gettin older, yo, and need to keep body and mind in top condition.

Life Changes
I recently started going to the chiropractor, and as I’ve been focusing on ensuring my spine is in proper alignment, I started thinking of my lifestyle and activities that probably don’t help maintain proper alignment.

One of these is the “hunched over the laptop for the entire day” activity. Can’t be good for the ol spine, right? So I pimped my workstation set-up so my posture is better. Check it out:

Pimped out set-up


Key features
* Laptop on a stand so screen is up in front of where my face actually is
* Bluetooth keyboard
* (now Bluetooth) mouse (I have a fear of numerous/tangled cords: cordophobia?)
* Credit to my friend Chris at work cuz I totally stole the setup he had already figured out

Now that I had all these fancy devices, I need to protect them when I travel, so I made some felt cases for them. I was feeling ambitious so also tried my hand at “sewing drawing” for the first time.

Case #1

A case for my long board, er keyboard. Get it? A surfboard on my keyboard case? …. Yeah


Case #2

A house for my mouse. Self-explanatory.


Mess Hall over and out

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26 Mar


Posted in Craftin' on 26.03.12 by Octopi

Early season warm weather is the perfect time to get some mundane outdoor tasks done. I took advantage of the global warming these past couple weekends to paint the floor of my porch. It was becoming a desperate situation.

While I was at it I was inspired by geometric patterns in rugs to paint a “rug” on the newly painted floor to jazz things up a bit.


During (quel difference!!)

Ooh la la. Peacock inspired!

Happy spring project-ing!



12 Feb

Farmland is Sparkly

Posted in Craftin' on 12.02.12 by Octopi

Hi all – thought I’d share my most recent crafts-capade.  In the past I’ve had commitment issues….as in I’ve had trouble committing to buying permanent artwork for the living room.  My solution was to buy three blank canvases and keep switching out what I’d display on them.

Iteration 1: Origami Butterflies.  I spent several weekends/evenings a couple winters ago tucked in safe from the cold with a nice bottle of whiskey, Netflix, some fine selections of fancy paper, and a YouTube video on how to make origami butterflies.  The result was about about 50 butterflies flitting across the canvasses.

Iteration 2: The poster prints.  Over the years I’ve amassed some pretty nice prints from the Flatstock poster show at Pitchfork.  Take poster. Put it up. Repeat X 2.  Done.  That was a pretty easy one and almost not worthy of being called a project.

Iteration 3: Farmland is Sparkly paillette-palooza.  Inspired by the Holiday Club exterior sign here in Chicago, I thought, let’s get a little sparkle going on.  A paillette, by the way, is a small shiny object applied in clusters.  Armed with about 3,500 little sparkly paillettes, I set out to cover those canvases with three images of farmland.

Makin it Happen

  • Pin paillettes to canvas.
  • Don’t mess up the pattern.
  • A thimble-like device is helpful so you don’t hurt your fingers trying to poke the pins through.

Here’s the start of one of images – I set an even distribution at the sides and then worked toward the middle.

And this is the final product!

And, for sense of scale…



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31 Oct

Crafting it Up MacGyver Style: Equipment

Posted in Craftin', General on 31.10.10 by Octopi

I have a tendency to dream up a project and decide that “Yeah, I don’t need official plans/directions/instructions. I can figure this out.” Typically though, one must at least have a general plan of attack, even if it’s a bit “fluid”.

I’ll have some upcoming posts with a few tips if you like to craft it up MacGyver-style. This post is a focus on equipment.

  • If it’s a dangerous piece of equipment (like an electric saw of some kind, heck even if it’s a hand saw!) make damn sure you have received instruction on how to safely operate. Don’t MacGyver this one. Just make sure you know how to use it. And protect yourself while you’re using it with appropriate safety gear (safety glasses, gloves, etc. as appropriate).
  • If it’s equipment or tools you use but not very often, you will still need to pay attention to how it works. For example, I always leave my sewing machine threaded (needle and bobbin) because it helps me remember HOW to do both (I can back-track into it by following what I see). So if it’s been a year since I’ve used it, it doesn’t take 10 hours to remember how to do mundane things.  I also keep the instruction manual right with the machine.
  • If equipment breaks and you decide it’s a great idea to start taking it apart to fix it, keep track of how you took it apart. EXACTLY. Get some small dishes to put screws, etc., in so you don’t lose them. Make note if you are turning things clockwise/counter-clockwise. Take some actual notes. I’ll even take pictures of the steps I took in taking something apart so I can flip back through them while putting it back together.

  • Keep your equipment and tools organized and in good condition.  Most of the time, when you have to send the Bat Signal out for a particular tool or piece of equipment, you need it right away.  Keeping your equipment well organized and in good working condition means they’ll always be there when you need them.
  • Sometimes it all comes down to using the correct tool. My new commuter bike is well, not quite new. Quick release apparently wasn’t invented back in the early 1970s. So I had to re-learn how to fix a flat with these new tires. Except I couldn’t figure out how to easily get the tires off with the tools I had. That and a string of bad luck with some flats got me “this close” to launching that bike off the nearest bridge. However, a bike shop angel at a nearby shop kindly and patiently showed me what to do. In the course of that I realized that I actually needed the right tool (socket wrench) to get the wheel off, not just a random old wrench. That “aha!” moment has saved me headaches and time. Helpful Instruction + Correct Equipment = Happy Girl


Be a MacGyver, not a MacGruber.

Any other equipment/tools tips and tricks, Mess Hallers?


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