Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Ikea Pax Built-in Wardrobe Hack- Part II

So in Part I of the Ikea Pax wardrobe hack, I showed you the frames and the Komplement drawer re-sizing. In Part II, I'd like to share the clothes rail hack and the construction of the wardrobe doors and 'roof'.

Re-sizing the Komplement clothes rail was pretty straightforward, as the ends could easily be removed so that the pole could be cut to size (using a jigsaw) and then re-fitted.

These were then screwed into place. Owing to the design of the clothes rail, we needed to fit another piece of 4x2 below the frame to affix the rails to:

Designing the doors was really surprisingly difficult. We liked our original Pax Bergsbo doors because the panelling gave some interest, but we didn't want the new design to be quite as complicated (mainly because we worried that so many panels would show any imperfections). I spent a lot of time on Pinterest, eventually settling on this as my favourite style.

The doors were measured up and then transferred onto free 3D modelling software Google SketchUp to check the proportions.

Once happy with the design, we purchased the MDF from B&Q, who offer a free wood cutting service in their larger stores. We had them cut the 24mm sheets for the doors to size and also a 6mm sheet into strips for the detailing. This is it all laid out (we did the final cut on the strips ourselves as this was fairly straightforward and allowed us to make it fit perfectly):

Each strip was glued and pinned into place using lost head nails, we then left them to set under every heavy object we could find and crossed our fingers that they'd stay stuck down:

Happily, they turned out pretty OK and were then ready to seal (with watered down PVA glue), prime and paint (apologies for the strange picture below!)

The doors and frames are painted in Little Greene 'Clockface' intelligent emulsion. We opted for butterfly hinges (from eBay) as we were worried that butt hinges would make all the measurements too difficult and result in gaps around the doors and I'm really pleased with the visual interest that they add.

The final step was the 'roof', which sits on top of the frame; we decided there was no need for glue or screws on this, providing the fit was good. To allow a bit of airflow, we used a router to cut two holes in the roof, as below and then slotted the roof into place.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the result. The wardrobes are a real focal point in the room and maximise the available space, well worth the hard work!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Ikea Pax Built in Wardrobe Hack- Part I

There hasn't been much happening on the DIY front lately, mainly because the house has now sold meaning that most DIY activities have ceased. However, there are still a few projects I wanted to share with you. The first project is the built in wardrobes in the master bedroom.

The wardrobes have been built either side of the chimney breast in what unfortunately transpired to be unequally-sized gaps with no 90 degree angles whatsoever. This may or may not have something to do with having plastered the room ourselves...!

In Thrifty Lodge, we had a set of Ikea Pax wardrobes, which hadn't weathered the move to Thrifty House very well and hadn't been enjoying sitting disassembled in the damp downstairs. So we decided their parts could be donated to the new wardrobes, in a thrifty circle of life. The main components we required were Komplement drawers and Komplement clothes rails. Here are the (messy!) wardrobes from Thrifty Lodge below:

The first job was to construct the 'ladders' that would form the wardrobe frames. Each ladder was built from four by two and was then screwed together, all holes were filled and the frames were given two coats of knot-blocking primer:

Once screwed to the walls, some careful measuring took place and two further four by two pieces were cut to size to form the 'roof' and screwed in place. As you can see, they're strong enough to support my friend Colin:

This process was then repeated at the bottom of each wardrobe, to make the structure even more sturdy:

We'd designed the wardrobes to meet our individual needs (I wanted fewer drawers and space for longer hanging items, e.g. dresses), but the beauty of using a modular system like Pax is that you can change the fittings to suit your needs.

Our Pax fittings were all for either a 50cm wide single (too narrow for this space) or a 100cm wide double wardrobe, but the gaps are around 80-90cm each, so some adjustments would need to be made width ways. We designed the depth to be slightly bigger than a standard Pax (60cm) in order to accommodate the doors and hinges and give ourselves a bit of room for error.

The next job was to fit the Komplement drawer runners- this was fairly simple, except that instead of having pre-drilled holes like you get from Ikea, we had to drill our own:

Once this was done, it was time to shorten the Komplement drawers to fit snuggly. To do this, we removed one end of the drawer and slid out the base. The base was then measured to the width of the gap, cut down to size using a table saw and slotted back into the base. The end that had been removed simply needed a couple of new drill holes to re-fit:

The picture below shows an 'original' Pax drawer (from the double wardrobe), one for my new built-in wardrobe (the bigger of the two new ones, naturally!) and one for the smaller built-in wardrobe. We made sure the new screw holes were on whichever side was against the wall, so they wouldn't be visible:

Unfortunately I was too excited to take any pictures of all of the drawers in place, so this one will have to do for now, until I reveal the finished wardrobes in a later post:

PS Maybe you'll be able to picture them all in place by looking at this pile of Komplement drawer offcuts!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Rocky Road Squares- Store Cupboard Special

This month I'm a bit lacking in funds* so I've been closely focused on making everything I do as thrifty as possible, including baking.

I'm also on a drive to sort, tidy and clear out, so this recipe seemed like a natural choice. I've made rocky road before, but this month was all about using up some of the things floating around in my 'cupboard' (as I don't have a kitchen in the renovation house, I don't actually have any cupboards, so everything lives in a bookcase, but let's not get too technical!)

This included: toffee popcorn from movie night a couple of days before (now tasting a little soft), marshmallows and some digestive biscuits which weren't as crunchy as they once had been. The beauty of rocky road is that when you bung all of this together with lots of other calorific stuff, the result is amazing and you can't taste any slight softness etc, making it the ideal way to use these things up without them going to waste.

100g chocolate (milk or dark) to drizzle over the top
200g biscuits
100g butter
Store cupboard lurkers- toffee popcorn, marshmallows etc

1. Put the biscuits in a bag, seal and then bash into crumbs using a rolling pin

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir in the biscuits. Add the raisins, marshmallows etc and stir until thoroughly mixed

3. Pour into a tin lined with grease proof paper and press down with a potato masher

4. Leave in the fridge for an hour or so and then remove. Melt the chocolate over a simmering pan and pour over the base, return to the fridge to set for a further hour


* PS A little clue as to why I've got got no money this month...

July Seasonal Recipe: Stewed Rhubarb and Meringue

The best deals are usually on seasonal food as it's in abundance and as a result, I've picked up some bargains on rhubarb over the past couple of weeks.

Forced rhubarb is in season early in the year and is perfect for mini rhubarb crumbles but the season for the field grown variety is around April to September, so is perfect for more summery deserts like this one.

This week, I've kept it simple, by just stewing the rhubarb and serving with shop-bought meringues, ideal if you have guests and you're in a hurry. For a thrifty, out of season version, used tinned rhubarb.

Rhubarb Meringues
Serves 4

Rhubarb (approx 400g)
50g water
50g orange juice
Sugar, to sweeten to taste (2-4 teaspoons usually does the trick!)
4 x meringue nests

1. Chop the rhubarb into bite-sized pieces and place in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the liquid water and orange juice and a couple of teaspoons of sugar.

2. Bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer gently for 5-10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender. Taste to ensure the rhubarb is sufficiently sweet, then serve over the meringue with cream, yoghurt or ice cream.

For more ideas on how to use your seasonal rhubarb, see here for Delia's suggestions (doesn't the rhubarb ice cream look amazing?) or here for Delicious Magazine's ideas (the cheesecake is next on my agenda when I have a new kitchen!)

Happy seasonal cooking!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Summer Salad Season II

As the beautiful weather continues, so too do the summer salads...

Tuna & sweetcorn pasta salad

Lemon & rosemary potatoes with roasted pepper

Spicy tomato, spinach and sweetcorn pasta salad

Sausage, avocado and feta

Sausage, olive and feta with pesto

This week the theme has been 'thrifty leftovers' for the salads, which has also helped to minimise prep time.

What has been in your lunchbox this summer season?

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Thrifty iPad Tips

I can't believe I haven't yet told you about my exiting new toy! This year I treated myself with my Birthday money to a shiny new iPad Mini.

Whilst purchasing an iPad isn't thrifty (although in my personal experience, Apple's excellent customer service and the durability of their products do make a case in their favour) there are definitely thrifty ways to make the most of it, once you've made the initial investment. Here are my 5 thrifty iPad recommendations:

1. Buy from John Lewis

They're the same price as the competition, but offer a 2 year warranty (standard is 1 year) and you can 'Click and Collect' from a Waitrose store if you don't live near a John Lewis. Also if you have a cash back credit card which favours department stores, you may be able to benefit on this pricey purchase.

2. If you go for a 3G iPad make the most of a competitive market for data plans

Don't tie yourself in to a long contract as prices are falling rapidly. Use Quidco to get cash back when you sign up for a data plan and take advantage of any offers, e.g. recommend a friend on Giff Gaff. Also call your mobile phone company to see if they can tack a data plan onto your existing contract. Work out what you'll use a month with this handy calculator and check what it'll cost you if you go over your allowance. Sign up for balance reminders to keep on top of your usage.

3. Make the most of free apps

The iTunes store has a category for free apps, so check for a free alternative before you pay. Most paid-for apps have a free version with less functionality, check if this is sufficient for your needs before paying out. If you visit Starbucks, you can also pick up a free 'Pick of the Week' download.

If you already have an iPhone, you can download these same apps for your iPad, so don't duplicate.

4. Buy the right accessories to maximise your iPad

A lot of the reason for my decision to purchase was that I travel fairly frequently for work. When I'm in the car, I usually use my phone as a sat nav, but the screen is really too small and the older my phone gets, the slower it has become and the worse the effect of the sat nav app on the battery. Instead of spending £100 on a Tom Tom or similar, I've just invested in a windscreen mount for my iPad and use this free sat nav app.

I've also invested in a Bluetooth keyboard so I can use my iPad Mini productively on the train (and don't worry, you do get used to the tiny keyboard, in fact I'm typing this post on it now!)

I would also advise buying a decent case to protect your iPad from knocks and falls. I have this one which is ideal, acting as both a cover and a stand and looking very pretty at the same time.

5.Shop around

Apple Store prices can be eye watering for iPad accessories so shop around! The same goes for downloads- you don't have to use the Apple Store. Amazon mp3s are cheaper and are compatible with iTunes and I also find the Kindle store cheaper for books etc.

PS Apologies for the lack of photos, my camera is broken and I can't use the iPad to take pictures of itself (maybe that's its one drawback?)

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Free iTunes 'Pick of the Week' Download

I'm not going to pretend that going to Starbucks is thrifty (unless you're getting a free Starbucks coffee) but if you're there anyway, make the most of their weekly free iTunes download.

The download might be a song, a TV episode, book or app. This week it's a book- Temptation Island by Victoria Fox. I haven't started reading it yet (on my shiny new iPad) but one of my favourite things about the Starbucks 'Pick of the Week' is that this is a book I wouldn't usually read, but the free download has encouraged me to try.

Pick up one of the cards in store and redeem through iTunes here to expand your musical, television and reading horizons!