How do I… screen a metal door?

How do I...

Windows are pretty easy to screen; most of us can get (or make) a frame, put the screening inside and mount it. But doors? Mama, doors are another story, and most of the doors here have some kind of openness to them, even when they’re closed. Never fear! There is a solution.

First, you’ll need some rubbing alcohol. Grab a rag and use it to clean the surface of the metal so that the glue will adhere well. You may also want a pair of disposable gloves to protect your skin from the cement in the next steps.

This is a bottle of rubbing alcohol

Next you’ll need…screen! It comes in big rolls. There are different quality levels with different sized holes, so go for the smallest gauge and toughest material you can find. I prefer fiberglass over aluminum, but that’s just a personal preference. If the fiberglass rips, it’s more easily repaired with screen tape.

Next you’ll need a sharp pair of scissors. Screen is actually pretty easy to cut. I measure the width of the door, then leave it longer than necessary (why will become clear). Leave it as wide as you can to allow more surface to contact the metal. When I was a new, fresh, green missionary (not the decrepit old lady I am now), I used bias tape I made from an old sheet and bound the edges on my sewing machine to make them look nice. (I was so industrious. Sigh.) I didn’t do that this time. I’m not sure if it would work with the clear cement; you might need RTV if you’re going to go that route.

Once your screen is the right size across, you’ll go ahead and start using the clear PVC cement to attach it directly to the metal. It smells pretty bad, so you may want a fan. I found it best to apply it fairly heavy, wait a minute for it to start to dry, then apply the screen once it’s tacky. (It’s helpful to have two people to do this part, but I know how you roll, mamas, and if it’s just you, you can totally still do it.) Press the screen to the cement all along the edge; the cement will pass through the screen. As it starts to take, I do another pass with the cement over the top of the screen. Hold it in place until it can take the weight of the screen (two or three minute at most; it dries quite quickly).

Next, you’ll work your way down each side of the door. If you have any odd things you have to work around, go ahead and make the cuts to accommodate it first. Then, just like across the top, put a layer of cement on the door, pressing down the screen, and applying another layer of cement on top. Be careful not to pull the top away if it’s still drying; you could wait until it’s hardened to do the sides if you’re concerned.

Once the sides are both done, you can tell how much you’ll need at the bottom. Sometimes the screen can gap or fold funny, so that’s what it’s important to leave the bottom part longer, to ensure coverage. You do not want to get to the bottom and be half an inch short. (Trust the voice of experience, mamas.) Then you can go ahead and follow the same procedure at the bottom. Once it’s all done, I do one more layer on top of all the edges, just to be sure. This whole project only took 1/4 of the PVC cement. If I was using RTV, I would expect to use a whole tube, maybe a tube and a half, depending on how thick you put it on.

As you can see, some parts of my cutting were straighter than others…I had a five-year-old who was alternately trying to help and wrestling with his sister…it was so helpful…but it did impact the straightness of the screen. Which I now have to live with.  Forever.

Since these screens are not removable, I usually just use a stiff-bristled brush like with a dust pan and brush them clean. Try to make sure the wind is blowing through the house going out, not in. A fan is helpful.

Admittedly, I haven’t tried this on anti-corrosion paint. I’m not sure how that would work, but bare metal or regular painted metal should both work.

Also, I have no suggestions for getting your children to actually close the door behind them. You’re on your own there.

Hang in there, mamas! And while you’re at it, hang some screens. You’ve got this.

How to get a lego out of your kid’s nose…

Okay, so E is always sticking stuff up her nose, so I know it’s just a matter of time before I use this trick. Also, we’re overseas, so it’s harder to get to medical care…and frankly, I just thought this was genius. So enjoy Georgia and her ill-fated nose incident!


How do I…hang laundry?

How do I... (1)

It may seem basic to many, but using a “solar dryer” (i.e. the clothesline) isn’t as easy as it looks! Here’s some tips that may help:

I use wooden clothespins. They sometimes get a little funky if they get too wet, but the plastic ones broke a lot faster. I fold a little bit of the fabric over the line before I pin it to help deter gravity.

In general, I hang shirts and dresses at the hem so that the clothespin marks don’t show up on my shoulders. You know, up where people’s eyes are. Pinning it on the side seam also reduces the appearance of clothespin marks…the exception is onesies, which get SUPER stretched out if you hang them by their “tail” (where the snaps are). On the other hand, if your kid is growing, and you can’t afford new onesies…

There’s nothing wrong with hanging laundry without pins. Just like there’s nothing wrong with laundry falling off the line and having to try to shake the dirt off, or having the dog rip it to shreds, or taking forever to dry because it’s not fully exposed to the breeze. As long as you’re okay with that stuff, skip the pins. I understand “hanging fatigue,” especially when it’s kids’ clothes that just take forever to hang each tiny piece. But you may regret just throwing it over the line.

An alternative to just throwing it over the line: wrapping it around the line. Girl Scouts will recognize this as a lark’s head knot, and it’s easy to do with bras and underwear of the female persuasion. For man/kid undies, I fold them over the line and pin them on the cotton, because otherwise the elastic wears out quickly. They dry slowly this way. I pair the socks as they go onto the line, because it’s easier to match them when they come off.


Here’s how I hang pants–I do hang these right-side up, because the water evaporates better if it’s not all soggy at the bottom. Let gravity work for you! I also pull out the pockets so that it dries faster. Fast fact: if you don’t button them, you may regret it, depending on how close to the equator you live. I heard a sad, sad story once about a missionary mama who hung her brand-new jeans on the line, leaving them unbuttoned, and returned to find that the sun had bleached two triangles into the front of them where the zippered parts had flopped open. Mamas, don’t let this happen to you. 

And I see you trying to check the size on my jeans. Quit it.


Here’s my clothespin “monster.” He doesn’t have a name, but he hangs on the line when I need him around. He’s had a few accidents over the years, so his original hangar has been lost. Here’s a simple, free pattern that’s similar to the one I used. Some people prefer aprons, so here’s a free pattern for one from a pillowcase. (Neat, huh?) The button eyes were my addition, because really, he makes me laugh.

And ladies, believe me when I say that it was an easy project. I can barely turn on my sewing machine, and I got it done in an afternoon. You can do it.

Now, let’s talk direction: namely, which way is the breeze moving? Think of the direction the breeze is coming from as the “front”: that’s the place to hang the smaller stuff like underwear and socks. That way, your sheets aren’t blocking the breeze from everything else.

My line isn’t tall enough to hang the flat sheets without folding them. So when I bring the bottom of the sheet up to pin, I only bring it up about 3/4 of the way instead of matching it at the top and just pin the sides together.  Then I make sure the open side is facing the breeze. That way, it catches it like a sail and dries both sides simultaneously. If it’s a heavy fabric, you can also put one pin in the middle at the top, and it’ll still work pretty well.

I hang whites in the sun so that they whiten and darks in the shade so that they don’t. You may not have that option, but sometimes you can reduce sun exposure based on how it’s moving across the sky. In general, intense sun exposure will break down the fabric and make things fade faster. For this reason, I knew one mama who would stick things in the washer late at night and hang them up early the next morning. That way, it dried before the sun was really beating on it. She said adding baking soda kept it from souring.

And since we’re talking about washing now, I loved this breathing washer tool when we lived in the village. It worked great and saved my wrists. I’ve kept it around for times when there’s no power or I need to hand wash something delicate.

You’ve got this, mamas.


How do I…get rid of fruit flies?

When you add a warm, humid environment, a tiny fridge, and lots of fresh fruit on the counter, what do you get?

Fruit flies!

At least, that’s what I got.


But the good news is that building a fruit fly trap is easy and cheap, and it can quickly get the situation under control.

First, find an empty container you don’t mind getting rid of. Jars with a lip work better for reasons that will soon be revealed. Now go find some fruit you don’t mind getting rid of–the older, the better. I get good results with the peels of fruit–especially bananas and mangos. Drop them in the bottom of the jar.


Next, find yourself some plastic wrap (ideal) or a paper towel or thin piece of cloth (less ideal). Cover the top of the jar and secure with a rubber band or a piece of string.


With something sharp like a kebab skewer or an ice pick, make three small holes in the top. These should be about the size of the head of a pin.

Put the trap where you usually see the fruit flies, and try to get rid of anything else they’re interested in by putting it under a bowl or a towel. Or you could eat it. Hey, you should eat it!


Anywho, go ahead and forget about it for about two days, and you should start seeing an improvement in the problem. Don’t be cruel like me and let your kids taunt the flies and shake the jar to hear them angrily buzzing at us. (Ha! We trapped you! You’re going in the trash, you dumb flies!)

You’ve got this, mamas.