I love fireplaces. Open wood fireplaces are the best but I love them all. Unfortunately, I’ve never in my adult life had the opportunity to live in a place with one. I decided to rectify that situation.

I’d been kicking around the idea of a tabletop faux-fireplace for a while and when my wife dug up her old phone, I sprang into action. A trip to the art section at the local hardware store was all it took to get me set for my craftstravaganza.

The housing is a repurposed wooden box purchased from the hardware store. I measured the screen of the phone and cut out a a hole in the center of a tray that had come with the box. I stained it all with black/brown stain from Ikea in order to match the furniture in my office. Next came the acrylic mosaic tiles to finish off the fireplace look. I used flexible superglue to keep them all in place. Mostly because I’m inpatient.

Inside the box is a sponge to press against the back of the phone and keep it in place. On what was the bottom of the box, now the rear, I cut out a hole for the usb power cable and a larger hole for extra sound. A big benefit of a mostly empty box is amplified crackles and pops from the speakers.

My reading nook is now so much nookier and I couldn’t be happier.


Scapple BoardDitch the tacks, stickies, and printer. Scapple is the most renter and environment friendly pin board you’ll ever use.

A lot of people use Scapple (from the fabulous folks who brought you Scrivener) primarily as a digital note board. Though the interface can be clunky, there are myriad options for writing, linking, and organizing your thoughts.

Lately, I’ve been using Scapple for another purpose. Inspiration.

The above is the inspiration board I’ve been using for a chapter set inside the Étoile du Nord. A luxury train that ran from Paris to Amsterdam starting in the 20’s. In the center, you can see that I’ve placed one of Scapple’s famous notes filled with some important info for the scene.  That’s not what I want to focus on. It’s the pictures I use most. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, I’d say they’re good for at least a dozen notes as well.

Photos in Scapple can be resized and layered with ease. They to can be linked and organized using the same tools that apply to notes. One feature, however, stands above the rest in making Scapple so useful for this task, drag and drop.

I know, I know, it’s not a ground breaking technological breakthrough but the ability to drag and dump photos off the web and into a holding tank rather than saving them to the desktop or, more likely, leaving a million tabs open in Chrome, is a life changer.

By utilizing a Scapple board, I no longer have to save link after link. I no longer have to create folders full of photos. I no longer have to click between photo files to view each one individually. The Scapple board let’s me keep them all in one place which means I have all that inspiration available in just one quick glance. Less time searching, more time writing, who wouldn’t like that.

Neon dry erase markers on glass with black paper background.
Neon dry erase markers on glass with black paper background.

Well, okay, that isn’t quite all.

Liquid chalk looks great but is a pain to clean and a pain to use and just a mess all around.

Neon dry erase markers also look great but are easy to clean and easy to use.

If you want to make semi-permanent signs, liquid chalk is the choice. If you are after a marker for a dark or black dry erase board, neon dry erase markers are absolutely the best choice.