Digging Into The Reflection Zone

The Reflection Zone (the area North of the main motel building) currently shares top billing with exterior paint and trim on our massive spring punch list.

The first step toward making this area functional and pretty was removing the years of layered leaf debris from around the Sycamore tree, thinning the overgrowth of evergreens, and eradicating the ever-present Autumn Olive. It was a jungle out there!

Now that much of that mess is gone, the Irises are sprouting en masse and pretty purple violets are blooming. Our next step will be to wash, trim, and paint this section of the building and to make the garden area a welcome and tranquil outdoor space for guests to enjoy.

(Click on any of the pictures below to open a photo gallery of the project.)

Thinking of creating a garden bench planter from the old fountain base.
We’re considering turning the old fountain base into a garden planter bench something like this.


We’re having an impromptu work bee this weekend. You’re welcome to come by for a look or to lend a hand.

DIY Sign Making Part Two: The Billboard


imageToday’s challenge: to scale up the Atwood Inn logo to fit on the 8′ x 16′ road sign. Our budget: the usual $0.

imageMaterials: plastic baggies, tape, hair tie and rubber band, scissors, Sharpie, recycled cardboard, duct tape. All stuff we had around the house.

imageI printed 6″ letters on paper using Publisher and WordArt. We cut up the plastic bags, taped the letters underneath them and traced the outlines with Sharpies. (hint: I printed 2 1/2 letters on every second sheet so we could use the overlap to align and space the letters correctly.)

wpid-20150929_203932.jpgMeanwhile, Dave cut up a box and taped the seams to make the projector.

imageHe cut a 7″ x 7″ window on one end to lay the transparencies over.

imageHe cut a much smaller opening at the opposite end. He and Lexi devised a phone mount using a hair tie and bobby pins. He then switched on the flashlight app and tested it by projecting the first two letters on the living room wall. It worked!

imageWith the projector mounted onto an extendable pole, we took a pack walk outside to see if we could project the letters directly onto the billboard without going through the stencil making step.

imageWe determined that while we could direct it at the billboard, that method would require waiting until dark for the image to be visible enough to trace. We didn’t want to wait that long to start the actual painting, so back inside we went.

imageDave cut a 12′ long strip from a large cardboard box. We snapped parallel chalk lines 24 inches apart, then straddled a ladder over it. Dave laid the projector over the ladder hinges, which provided the perfect distance for magnifying the letters to size.

imageWe traced the outlines onto the long piece of cardboard, scooching the board to the left as we switched from one transparency to the next.

This part didn’t take long, but cutting out the letters took a little doing. Dave’s razor knife helped, but an X-acto knife or rotary cutter would have been handy here. Serrated kitchen knives worked OK, too.

imageWe separated “ATWOOD” from “INN” and headed back outside with our giant cardboard stencils.

imageDave mounted the stencils onto the billboard with small screws.

image Dave did all the ladder work. I just kept him company.

image imageOnce he had the letters traced, he began painting them in.

image Almost there…

It was near dark and getting cold, but he made it!

imageNext, it’s over to the North side to do it again. Then we’ll add the lamp post and additional wording.

We try to do at least one thing to move the project forward every day, and for the most part, it’s working. The property really appears to be shaping up, and we’ve been getting great responses from our guests and our neighbors. When it feels particularly slow going or I start to worry about money, I remind myself how far we’ve come on so little, and in such a short time. Before & After pics help.

Did you know that Eva Mann made the original “MOTEL” and “Office” signs out of styrofoam she chiseled herself? 35 years later, those signs are still hanging. All we need to do is replace one “f” and apply fresh paint and they’ll be good as new.

Perhaps someday we’ll be able to afford vinyl letters and other luxuries. Until then, here’s to Making Do like it’s 1979.

The Atwood Inn Sign Project

Do-it-yourself sign making with Three Hills and friends.

Tricia Bowden and her friend, Philly**  brought our vision to life with this awesome Whistle Up The Bay inspired design and color palette. Our challenge was to scale it up to a 4′ x 8′ sign with zero budget or sign making experience.

**Phil Detloff is his real name, and he’s a real graphic artist. We are thrilled with the designs he created for us and highly recommend him. LOVE it!

DIY sign painting
Lexi, Dave, & Shane did a bit of strategizing and practicing with the old sign. Lexi is saying, “Let’s use a grid system,” and Dave is saying, “I can free-hand that s**t.”
Atwood Inn sign creation
Father and daughter snapping chalk lines.
sky blue
Mmmm…. pretty blue paint.



Our beautiful daughter and sign painter.
Meanwhile, Dave cut down the cross beam, but kept the side posts and existing sign frame.
Pretty as a picture.
Our neighbor, Chuck, donated a ballast to get the whole No Vacancy sign working properly.
Lexi painted happy little trees.
The first layer of paint took a few days to dry.
Therese painstakingly and meticulously traced and spaced my homemade paper letter stencils and Dave painted them in.
Therese came back yesterday to help me paint walls in three rooms, and then helped Dave put the sign in the frame while I stood around taking pictures.



Finished with this part for the day. Passersby were honking and giving Dave the “Thumbs Up.”
Dave had band practice, so I spent part of the evening making the lamp post stencil. I traced the outline from the logo with Photoshop Elements, saved it as an eps file, then enlarged and printed it as a banner in Publisher. Perhaps not the most elegant way to have done it, but it worked.
Dave applied the paper stencil to the sign this morning.
Traced around the stencil with pencil.
Then he filled it in with white paint.
He’s a lefty.
He has a good eye and a steady hand.


Cleaning up the job site.
And Voila! Welcome to the Atwood Inn!


June Thus Far: A Pictorial Update

The Motel Possible is really moving along now that Spring has decided to stick around. We’ve been grooming the courtyard, mowing and taking back more of the grounds, painting and furnishing the first guest rooms, and preparing for the biggest phase of the project to date: exterior paint and trim.

It would not be possible for us to do any of it without the continued love, help, and support of our friends and family. We are blessed with the best.

Click on any of the pictures to open a photo gallery.