Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Girl-sized tools

I know women are strong, tough, and can do anything.  We sure can!  But personally, I can't swing Kevin's huge framing hammer!  At least not with any kind of accuracy.  I like my little tack hammer much better.  When I bought it (a while ago), Kevin took one look and asked, "Is that a toy?"  Today, since I can't find my palm sander, I bought a Black & Decker Mouse:

There were other detail sanders at Lowes (I decided to branch out from my usual Home Depot...Lowes is slightly closer), but they all felt heavy to my scrawny wrists.  The Mouse was the smallest.  I think I'm going to like my little mouse!  If I ever find my palm sander, I'm sure I'll still get plenty of use out of it too.

I've finished with the construction phase of our new mudroom lockers!  Using some not-so-tiny tools, I added trim to the front, and around the walls, board-and-batten style.  Since the last update, Kevin added the shoe shelves at the bottom, but I did everything else.  Once it's all painted white, It will look spectacular.

I'm just waiting for the wood filler to dry in the bigger cracks (because we are far from wood-cutting experts), then I can put my Mouse to good use.  After that, I will be caulking everything.  Priming and painting tomorrow, I hope!  I'm undecided on the colour for the upper part of the walls and the ceiling.  I want something dramatic, like peacock blue.  But the living room colour (grey-tan) would look great too...better for resale value.  I'm leaning toward the tan at the moment as I remember the annoyance of painting the dark blue bathroom.  I don't really want to add that to the annoyance of painting the ceiling.

Next on the list, before we return the saws to Kevin's dad is my little cupboard by the front door.  If I get brave enough, I may try doing that by myself.  Pray that I keep all my fingers!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Built-In Lockers Progress

Kevin and I make a great team, I think.  I come up with crazy design ideas, and he makes it happen realistically.  I always intend to build it myself, but when he sees my ideas, he makes them better, and takes over the power saws.  Probably just as well.  The only power saw I'm somewhat comfortable using is a mitre saw.  Which I will be using over the next few days to put up trim and board and batten in this tiny space.  Then it will be painting time!  Something that falls solely in my realm, due to my perfectionist-control-freak tendencies.  I like to paint.

This sight makes me smile this morning!

I'm  so lucky to have a husband who not only supports my crazy projects, but makes them happen.

My mom wasn't so lucky, due to my Dad's brain injury, which made him not the most reliable assistant.  When I was four, we moved into a duplex that was not far off from being condemned.  The bathroom floor was nearly rotted through.  My mom single-handedly (well, I'm sure she had help for some things) brought that place from gross, dangerous, outdated, to nice, clean, and renovated.  She replaced the bathroom subfloor, painted all the kitchen cabinets, installed wainscotting, installed a bathroom in the basement, painted the entire house--main floor and basement, and built a wall between the entry and living room.  that wall had a built-in china cabinet on the living room side and four built-in cubbies on the entry side, one for each kid.  She also built a little bench in the entry.  That was made necessary because she wanted the piano to fit into the basement, so some of the floor had to be removed.  She did that, beautifully.  I'm so proud of my mom, and I hope I can be more like her.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Creating Function (and Beauty!) in a Mudroom

The leaves are starting to change here already.  I swore in the spring, as I put away all the winter boots and coats (and then pulled them out again...then put them away), that before fall I would build mudroom shelves and lockers.

Ok, so we don't really have a mudroom.  We have a teeny-tiny back entry off the kitchen.  We've tried a few things back there to keep things organized.  It is the door we always use, since the garage is out back.  Nothing has really worked.  It had an ugly wire coat rack and shelf.  Those are fine and functional in closets with doors, but looked awful and didn't work with the space.  We hung our coats on hooks.  The kids pulled down their hooks twice!  The wall I put them in has no studs.  For my birthday, my friend gave be a gorgeous wooden bench with a little storage, which worked much better than the walmart shoe shelves we had before.  But it still wasn't perfect.

So yesterday, after getting the go-ahead from Kevin, I dismantled everything, patched the walls, and even scrapped the popcorn ceiling off!  I've been wanting to do that ever since I figured out my plan in the spring.  To see some images that have given me inspiration for this project, check out my Pinterest board.

I had to put up a makeshift curtain before Kevin would let me sand.  He is a very smart man.  I had already scraped off the popcorn, which didn't make too much mess, but the amount of dust I had to sand off was chokingly astounding.  Yes, I wore a mask.  I should have worn safety glasses too.  I think the sheet I used for the curtain is from the 70s.  My mom gave it to me the first year I grew tomatoes, so I would have something to cover them with in case of frost.

Today, my plan is to prime the walls, then go buy the white semi-gloss paint and peacock blue satin paint that I need for the room.  I'm hoping Home Depot will have a quart of mistint in a nice colour.  I'll also buy some of the wood I need for the lockers and shelves, and some of the board and batten.  I'm thinking of moving the light switch  over about three inches on the stud-less wall...But I may just leave it and work around it.  My other project to complete this week, while we're borrowing the table saw from Kevin's dad, is my poor little hole-in-the-wall cupboard.

Ever since I started this mess, Nick has been carrying around his toy drill and fixing things too.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Big Girl Room: Memo board

I made something for Juli's new violet walls this weekend.  She loves keeping her birthday cards, and pictures, and invitations, etc.  So I made her a french memo board as a place to keep them.

This time I used an old wood-framed bulletin board that I found at Value Village.  I covered it with two layers of polyester quilt batting, and some turquoise fabric I had.  I didn't have enough ribbon to do all one colour, so I did two.  I like the look.  With the double-layer of batting, the ribbon wasn't tight enough to hold the cards against gravity, so I added some button tufting to the top, middle, and bottom rows.  I may add another four buttons if necessary.  That's what made using a bulletin board such a good idea.  No drill was needed to sew the buttons on!  I used 1mm satin ribbon for the stitches.

I used larger buttons on the back to secure it, since the ribbon was pulling through the board.

Juli is happy with the result, and so am I.

Friday, 19 August 2011

My 2-year-old Nicholas

You know when 2-year-olds try to blow out their birthday candles and end up spitting all over the cake? Well, Nicholas blew out his candles like a pro! No spitting, and he got it on the first try!  It's hard to believe that my brown-eyed boy is two already.  But then I look at his 3-year-old-sized body and have to believe it.

His birthday yesterday gave me an excuse to try a cake I've been wanting to make.  It has two ingredients: yellow cake mix (just the powder) and a can of pumpkin. I put a spiced glaze over the top.  I think it would have been better with a plain vanilla glaze.

 We went to Ikea yesterday.  Juli went to play in the kids' area.  Nick was very upset that he couldn't go too. As a special birthday treat, I let him push a kid-size cart instead of being strapped in to a regular one.  He had a blast pushing that thing around the store.  He kept yelling Run! and trying to go too fast.  I was grateful for the parent handle.

Throughout the whole store, Nick looked everywhere for Juli.  In the kitchens, behind the sofas, etc.  He kept asking for, "Anana?" Yes, he calls his sister "pineapple" in french.

Everytime we sang Happy Birthday or blew out candles, Nick clapped and cheered. "Yay!"

I love the personality that is shaping in this little guy.  He is very tidy.  He likes to have things lined up just so.  He likes to clean up.  He likes to help.  He likes to figure out how things work, and doesn't get easily frustrated like his perfectionist sister does.  He has the patience to see it through.  On the other hand, we need to work on having patience in other things, like waiting for supper.

This morning, my little boy found a crocheted potholder.  He brought it to me, gently spread it on my shoulder, then laid his head down on it.  I guess it reminded him of his favourite blanket.  He loves hugs and kisses, although he doesn't sit still to cuddle as long as I'd like.  He always has to be on the go.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A Big Girl Bedroom in Violet

Our room-sharing experiment was short-lived.  After a couple of days to get used to it, the kids were doing so well sleeping in the same room!  But lately, they've been talking and playing a lot more, even when Juli didn't take a nap.  So, after Kevin insisted and I finally agreed, we decided to separate them again.

As I cleared out the reading-room stuff and accumulated junk, I thought, "Wouldn't it make sense to paint the room now, before Juli is moved back in?"  I figured Kevin would say no, due to the cost, but I decided to ask anyway.  So I called him.  To my shock, he actually said yes!  So, Juli picked the colour--a light lilac, which she calls violet ("Miss Hussy", by General Paint), and on Tuesday, I prepared the room for painting.  Once the kids were in bed for the night, I primed the walls.  With the flat builders-grade paint, it wouldn't have needed priming, but there were so many patches, that I just did the whole wall anyway.

Wednesday, after purchasing a better roller and returning my books to the library, I painted. With a little help from Juli.  Here is what her room looks like now.

The quilt on the window was made by my Nanny when I was about 15 or so.  One year at Christmas, she had everyone colour on a piece of fabric, which she sewed into this wall-hanging.  Serendipitously, it is exactly the right shape and size for Juli's window.  I know it's not really good for a quilt to hang over a window, due to sun damage and fading, but it is a north-facing window, and there's a blackout roller-shade behind it.  I think it will be ok.

The room still needs a few things: bedding (I need to turn her double-size comforter into a twin-size), a headboard, a bedskirt, a slipcover for the chair, and things for the walls (I'm thinking a french memo board would be perfect for this girl who loves to save all her cards and pictures.)

Now I really want to do Nick's room.  Maybe right before he moves into a big bed.  I'm trying to convince myself that I should NOT attempt to make quilts for my children.  It's not working.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Painting Memories

When I was growing up, my dear best friend lived in an old farmhouse on an acreage.  When they moved to a house in town, both our hearts were broken! We loved that place! The old wooden swings, the guest house, the long walks along country roads wearing our prairie-girl dresses...It was our haven.

For my friend's birthday this year, I was trying to figure out what to give her. I came across a picture of the view from her bedroom window at that house. With that picture were two paintings I did. The paintings were inspired by both that picture and a passage in my favourite book, The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery.

So for the gift, I combined the two.  The paintings were done in 1999 when I was about 16. Just this week, I colour-copied the page from my first-edition book, and glued the relevant passages on to the paintings as a collage. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. The text elevates my juvenile painting ability (which has not improved at all over the past 12 years) to something closer to folk-art. The frames are from the Ikea as-is section. I painted them thickly with silver craft paint, then used wood stain over that.  If you'd like to read the entire passage that was my inspiration, check out my writing blog.

Note, beyond that little shed in the picture, in the woods and down the lane that is hidden under the snow, was an abandoned "haunted" house. I never had the courage to go explore it, but I wish that I had.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Raspberry White-Chocolate Scones

On Saturday we went raspberry picking at Horse Hill Farm.  I had a voucher giving me 50% off of up to 10 pounds of berries.  I highly recommend that place!  I was expecting mud and mosquitos and mess, but experienced none of that. Well, I have about 10 mosquito bites on my legs, but I didn't notice them until last night.  They have wide aisles of mown grass between the rows of canes, so there was no mud either.  The messiest we got was when Nico sat on a berry.

I picked one bucket fairly quickly on my own, then helped Kevin finish filling his bucket.  My arms were totally scratched, and I still have prickles embedded in my hands.  But it was worth it.  Next time, I'll wear long sleeves, and maybe even gloves.  Juli loved picking the berries.  If her birthday was a month later, I'd consider having a raspberry-picking party for her.  Last night, I made some scones.

Raspberry White-Chocolate Scones

2 cups of flour
1 rounded tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of white sugar

Mix the above together.  Add 1/4 cup butter or margarine or shortening, and mix it with a fork or pastry blender.  Stir in 1 cup of milk

Lightly mix in 1 cup of white chocolate chunks and 1 to 1.5 cups of fresh raspberries.  Drop by he spoonful onto a baking sheet.  I used parchment paper on mine, because I knew the chocolate and raspberries would stick.  I love parchment paper!

Bake at 450 degrees F for 12 -18 minutes.

These scones are so moist and delicious that you don't even need butter.  I got the idea for this recipe from Cobs Bakery, but I think mine are better.  Theirs were really dry and biscuit-like.  Yeah, I'm humble!

Edited 8/13 to add the correct oven temperature! The first batch I made (pictured) I baked at 400, which is why it took forever, and ended up slightly too moist.  the second batch was much better.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Melted Crayon Colours!

I discovered a tutorial for this melted crayon art on Pinterest. (I love that site! I'm even using it for writing inspiration pictures!)  But I didn't like the methods described in that tutorial, so I won't link it here.  I hot-glued the crayons in a row in my 13x13 canvas, leaving out red, orange, brown, black, and grey from the box of 64 I bought, to better coordinate with the baby's room this will go in. Then I turned on the hair dryer.

I found it worked best if I keep the hair dryer on low (but high heat), and pointed only at the crayon wrappers.  I tilted the canvas to whatever angle I needed it to get the wax to run the way I wanted it to.  I love how it turned out!  Juliana was a little upset that I was going to give away the crayons she thought I was buying for her.  But she coloured some nice wrapping paper for the gift, using the leftover crayons.  That made her happy.