A simple deck switch in Illinois

In Illinois Sarah is enjoying outdoor living. She and her husband Steve made what turned out to be a simple change to improve their enjoyment of one of their favourite outdoor spots.

I’ve mentioned several times that Steve and I like to spend a lot of time on our deck. We designed and built it the summer of 2013. Then two years later we cleaned and sealed it.

We have gotten so much use out of it, whether it is just Steve and mefr or one of the several the birthday parties, 4th of July parties and girl’s night that we have had on the deck.

As much as we have used the deck, Steve had noticed that it could be improved. When we designed it we had two sets of steps: one directed towards a door of the house that we use often and one directed towards our garden.

However, after a few years of use Steve pointed out that we could really improve the flow if we moved the steps. What first seemed like a huge undertaking was really a quick change up. Thankfully the steps were built independently of the deck so after removing several deck screws the whole set of steps easily moved.

Then taking a few screws out of the railing and using a circular saw to cut it down we were easily able to replace it where we had removed the steps. Thankfully Steve has really good vision, because when he mentioned doing this I thought it was going to be a whole day of work and honestly it took less than an hour!

Moving the steps to a longer side did bring up a small issue. The stairs were narrower than the opening. Steve and I both felt that some tall planters would guide people towards the stairs and a railing wouldn’t be needed.

We found these planters at Lowe’s. To fill them we wanted something permanent that would look nice in the winter so we also purchased these bushes. Then we bought petunias and verbena for color during the summer. We could not be happier with how they turned out. (And yes that is Blitz’s very own baby pool in the background.)

Also I had to divide and move my mums around to fill in where the steps had been. We still need to decide what material and where we want a walkway but overall we are thrilled with the changes.

The deck just feels like it makes more sense this way and we sure like to spend time sitting out there and enjoying each other’s company.

Do you have a gathering spot at your house? Ever had a project that just wasn’t working and you made the decision to rework it? What flowers would you use to fill those big pots?

What a great switch, Sarah. I’m impressed that it was such an easy change for you. The planters are a good solution.

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Decorating moments

The Handmade Home is a relatively new blog to me. I really like their colourful, casual, happy style. A little while ago Ashley shared 10 decorating tips, and number 3 was to make moments in your space.

“When you have little areas that really reflect who you are, that’s when you’re getting somewhere. Giving an area space to breathe, to create little moments within your space, is like double bonus points for spaces in your room.”

I love making our home personal, whether it’s doing the work ourselves, using furniture that’s been handed down through the family, decorating with items that are unique and important, or any number of little touches that make our home all about us.

So Ashley’s advice about making moments really resonated with me. Here are a few of my favourite moments from our home.

Basement reading nook

Reading nook with Ikea Strandmon wing chair

The reading nook is a good example of creating a simple moment in the midst of a larger space. The basement is mostly open concept, but I created different zones and the reading nook under the window is a favourite.

It’s simple. A comfy chair, a good light, a small side table made from a stump and a large ottoman where I can put my feet up. The reading nook is a good reminder that it doesn’t take much to make a moment.

How to make a DIY round ottoman

 

Mudroom

Rustic simple mudroom

The mudroom is a space that only sees moments. It’s a pass through. We don’t hang out in there. But it’s full of helpful moments that set us up for going out or coming in.

There’s the bench that our nephew and I made, the repurposed hooks for Baxter’s leashes and towels, the refinished closet doors that look a bit like barnboard, and a bunch of other elements that make this a personal, functional, beautiful space for us.

Free plans to make a rustic wood bench

 

Book collection on the basement TV stand

Dice bookend

The TV stand in the basement is a completely personal piece. I designed it to accommodate Matt’s collection of video games and systems. It also echoes the style of his grandfather’s dining set, which sits on the other side of the room.

While this cabinet can be a moment all on its own, there’s another smaller moment sitting on one corner: a small book collection anchored by a homemade die bookend. This bookend ties in with the fun and games theme we have happening in the basement, and the books add to it. Chuck Norris, card tricks, cute dogs–this shows we love our books, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously around here. This isn’t literature. This is just for fun.

How to make a die bookend, including a free pattern for your own dice

 

Shelves in the basement bathroom

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

I love the tile, fixtures, huge mirror and dark paint we chose for Matt’s bathroom. It was one of the first spaces where I took some decorating risks, and five years in I’d make the same choices again.

The built-in shelving is a particularly special moment for me. We contrasted the classic marble, shiny chrome and dramatic black wall with warm natural elements like barn board, baskets, golden wood and one treasured family photo.

Bathrooms sometimes don’t have a lot of space for decorating. This little section gave me the opportunity to add the personality that I crave and highlight some things that are important to Matt.

See the whole bathroom

 

Living room fireplace mantel

Fieldstone fireplace in the summer

The big fieldstone fireplace in the living room is one of my favourite moments in this house. We treasure the warm fires on cool winter nights and enjoy the rustic style the fireplace gives our farmhouse year round.

The mantel is a moment on its own. We found the barn beams on the property, had them milled, and then installed and finished them ourselves.

The fireplace is a spot I’ve learned not to over-decorate. I enjoy the fireplace and the mantel most when there’s breathing space to appreciate the stone and the wood.

Every time I look at the fireplace, I’m reminded of the work and all of the people who were part of this project.

How to make a round wood framed mirror

 

Over our six plus years at the farm as we’ve worked our way through various spaces both in and out, and we’ve been able to create lots of special moments. The process of making a house your own is a special one.

What is your favourite moment at your house? Do you create moments, or do they happen serendipitously?

Nursery DIYs round-up

Thanks for following along as I’ve shared various parts of Ellie’s nursery over the last few months. I love this room so much. Ellie is now four and a half months old, and her nursery continues to be a comforting, happy space for us.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

 

As with all of the rooms at our house, Ellie’s is a mix of DIYs, heirlooms (or hand-me-downs) and thrifted pieces.

Given that it’s taken me so long to share all of the tutorials, I thought it would be helpful to round up all of the DIYs in one post.

If you’d like to go back and look at the reveal for Ellie’s nursery, you can find that post here.

Shadow box

After thinking about this project for years, I finally made a shadow box to display Matt’s first pair of sleepers that he wore home from the hospital. This project was easy and affordable–definitely worth the effort when I consider how much it would have cost to have the sleepers professionally framed. I love that the sleepers are protected and preserved and that we can appreciate this extremely personal heirloom. How to make a custom shadow box.

Baby sleepers framed in a homemade shadowbox

DIY Eames Hang-It-All

It’s amazing how helpful simple things like hooks can be. These racks hidden behind the door hold our carriers, the diaper bag, bath towels, Ellie’s hat–things that we access frequently and need at hand. I love knowing where things are and the hooks are so helpful to keep her room is tidy and organized. How to make a knock-off Eames Hang-It-All.

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

Cozy flannel crib sheets

I found most crib sheets too tight for our mattress. In fact, the mattress bent, curved and wrinkled when I first made Ellie’s bed. As well, I wasn’t interested in the patterned sheets that are so common. I sewed simple white flannel sheets using this tutorial from House of Menig. I’m hoping to sew some cotton ones for summer now that the weather is warm.

Vintage pedal car tractor in the nursery

Skinny dresser from two nightstands

The nursery has a weird little nook just inside the door. Years ago I made a small narrow dresser to go in the nook. The dresser is still filled with Mama and Daddy things, but the top holds Ellie’s lamp and a few other frequently used items. How to build a tall narrow dresser.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Beadboard backing for the bookshelf

I found an Ikea Hemnes bookshelf second hand on kijiji and replaced the backing with a beadboard panel for a country touch and painted the whole thing white. Adding new backing is a super simple project, especially if you have staff at your lumber store cut the panel for you. Note if you’re changing the back, there is a channel on either side of the Hemnes that the panel slides into, so measure accordingly. More about the nursery bookcase, including our favourite books.

Bookcase in the nursery

Sew your own pouf footstool

I’m still super proud of the pouf footstool that I made. It’s Moroccan-inspired, large, leather(ish) and will be soft and sturdy when Ellie starts to pull herself up. I also shared a round-up of a bunch of other footstools that you could make yourself. How to DIY a Moroccan pouf.

DIY Moroccan pouf free sewing pattern

Blackout window treatments + an Ikea hack

Window treatments are obviously very important to keep the nursery dark so that Ellie can sleep. However, I also wanted them to look nice. I hid a blackout blind behind a bamboo blind valance, and then added full length blackout curtains for both function and form. I also shared my tips for pleating Ikea curtains. How to make blackout window treatments for a nursery.

Blackout window treatments in the nursery

Figurines shelf

My collection of nursery rhyme figurines seemed perfect for the nursery. The cutlery tray shelf that I made a couple of years ago is such a clever solution to display small items like figurines. How to make a shelf from a cutlery tray.

Sleepers framed in a shadow box

Patching and repainting a gallery wall

I love the turquoise colour of Ellie’s room and am happy that we didn’t have to repaint when we changed the room from office to nursery. However, we did have to deal with a couple of gallery walls that left a bunch of holes in the walls. I shared my tips for painting over the gallery walls without repainting the whole room. How to repaint a gallery wall.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

I feel like DIYing so many parts of Ellie’s nursery made it an even more personal space for us. It also, of course, made decorating this room a much more affordable undertaking. I hope that some of these projects inspire you at your home.

Garden update from Illinois

Happy July 4th to all of my American readers. Our resident American, Sarah, is taking a break from her Independence Day festivities to share a glimpse of how gardening is going so far this summer in Illinois.

Happy 4th of July to all the American readers! As you are reading this we should be celebrating Independence Day with a fish fry and fireworks in our back yard.

When Steve and I discussed what sides to make to serve with the catfish, I knew that my goal was to make dishes that included as many foods as possible from our garden.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that we got a slow start to our garden this year. Unfortunately, we have struggled ever since. Walking through the garden last weekend Steve said, “This is the worst our garden has ever looked.” I had to agree.

We had several heavy rains, and it seemed that every time the garden dried up enough to actually walk the rows, another big rain came. Looking up the rainfall for June, it shows that we only had one inch more than average, but I think the timing was our issue.

However, our garden may look awful and yields are down, but we have still been able to have some fresh vegetables.

We have had the best luck with our cucumbers. We have picked enough pickling cucumbers to make 3 quarts and a pint of refrigerator pickles.

Steve had never made refrigerator pickles before and after giving him a little tutorial of how to do it, he has taken over and made it his project. He has tried 3 different recipes and tweaked them to how he thinks they could be improved. The pint above is his version of a hot pickle which included a jalapeno and some red pepper flakes. Hopefully after a few more weeks of marinating and adjusting the recipe, I can share his final version.

Even though the garden is not exactly like we like it, we are still fighting through. Over the past weekend, I actually MOWED our garden rows. I can’t say that I have ever done that before.

Then I was able to pass through with the tiller and pull weeds by hand.

We have a long way to go, but it is looking more like a garden now.

How is your garden doing this year? Have you had to fight weeds? Rain? Any other adversities?

Ahem… fellow garden mower here. I’ll just leave it at that.

How to prepare your dog for a baby

Baxter and Ellie

As our little family has grown, I’ve loved watching Baxter with Ellie. I’m so proud of how relaxed he is with her.

As soon as we found out we were pregnant, I started thinking about how I wanted Baxter to act around our baby and what behaviours we needed to work on. We consulted with our trainer and at the beginning of this year (about two months before our due date) we started working in earnest to prepare Baxter for his new role as big brother to Ellie.

Baxter watching Ellie in the play yard

As regular readers know, I’m a contributor to ThatMutt.com, where I write about dog training and behaviour. I’ve been sharing all of the details of our baby prep strategies for Baxter through a series of posts on ThatMutt, and this weekend the final entry was posted. I’m really proud of this series, so I wanted to mention it here.

Baxter and Ellie are both really, really important parts of our family. While Ellie isn’t super aware of her big brother yet, Baxter has been doing very well with Ellie. For the most part he ignores her—which is fine with us—but he also chooses to lay as close as possible to her stroller when we’re working outside and waits beside the car until I unload her when we come home from an outing. He seems to recognize her as part of the family.

Ellie in her stroller in the garden

Here are the links to the individual posts in my series on how we prepared Baxter for our new baby:

As Ellie grows we’re going to have to teach her how to behave in many situations–and especially how to behave around Baxter and other dogs. Likewise, he’s going to have to keep on adjusting to her. We’re very focused on working with them both to make sure everyone lives happily and safely together.

Hiking with Ellie and Baxter

I hope you’ll check out some of the posts and leave a comment if you have any advice or questions. I also hope that this series becomes a resource for other parents and dog owners out there. Thanks to Lindsay at ThatMutt.com for allowing me to document this important time in our family.

For all of you dog lovers out there, ThatMutt.com is having a huge giveaway featuring $500 worth of great dog gear from Mighty Paw. Baxter has a bunch of MP equipment, and we love it. Just for entering, you’ll receive $5 to spend on anything in the Mighty Paw store and a free copy of Lindsay’s dog training ebook, “The Good Mutt Guide.” The deadline is Wednesday. Click over to ThatMutt.com to enter (and read a couple of the baby prep posts while you’re there 😉 ).

Round herb garden with birdbath

Summer is just around the corner. In Illinois, Sarah is already well underway with summer projects. In fact, she’s already crossed one off her list–a new herb garden.

I seem to always have project ideas spinning around in my head. With Pinterest, magazines, pictures of other people’s gardens and yards, I have plenty of inspiration at my fingertips.

So it is such a wonderful feeling to take one of those ideas and bring it to life. If you remember back to March when I posted that I wanted to move my herbs, I had some ideas of what I wanted them to look like.

Well, I am happy to report that I as soon as the weather warmed up enough to work outside, I got started on this project.

This was the inspiration picture that I chose to go with:

I chose the small patch of grass in our back driveway. I have big dreams of eventually filling it all with flowers, but thankfully I have learned to start with small bites at a time so that I don’t become overwhelmed.

My focal point is my grandmother’s birdbath. So I first decided where I wanted it to sit. Then I took a measuring tape and measured out 4 feet from the bath in several different directions and marked it with spray paint.

Next, I shoveled the top layer of sod out of the circle. This was a long and tedious process but I believed it helped prevent my bed from being overrun with weeds and grass.

When all of the sod was removed I went over the bed with the tiller. This was a little difficult because it is a small area for as large of a tiller as we have but after wrestling it around for a bit, I got all of the soil turned over.

I then used twine and some scrap boards to lay out where I wanted to plant the herbs and where I wanted the stepping stones to go.

I found some stepping stones at the home improvement store and slowly started to see the herbs fill in.

I have cilantro, chives, basil, oregano, dill, salvia, yarrow, tarragon, and rosemary so far. Some of the herbs such as dill, cilantro and chives we use very often. I don’t use the salvia or yarrow, but they add some pretty color.

One more feature I added was a solar powered fountain for the birdbath.

I have to keep a close eye on it because it can occasionally empty the birdbath, but mostly it works perfectly well.

I still am going to make a couple decisions such as if I am going to add more mulch or maybe plant creeping thyme between the stepping stones. But overall I am pretty happy with my progress and cant wait to see the rest of the bed fill in.

Do you have a designated herb garden? A birdbath? Any project ideas swimming around in your head that you need to get started on?

Your grassy patch looks so much like our turnaround, Sarah. My goal is to have ours covered in flowers too, but I’ve stopped halfway because it’s definitely a big job. The turnaround is home to our birdbath too… although we still haven’t put ours out yet. 😦 I love the garden that you’ve built. The herbs are filling is so well, and it’s so special to use your grandmother’s birdbath.

First Father’s Day

The moment Ellie was born, she let out a cry and the doctor placed her on my chest. Matt said, “It’s a girl.” And he was laughing. I was in an over-whelmed haze at that moment, but hearing that happiness, that emotion is something I will never forget.

So much joy that he had to laugh.

Matt and Ellie

A few hours later, our midwife asked for her name. I looked at Matt and he said her name for the first time. That act of him naming her is one of the best moments of my life.

Matt, Ellie and Baxter snuggling on the bed

We have some amazing examples of fathers in our lives. Men who are hard-working, kind, selfless and who do anything for their children.

These are qualities I have always seen in Matt, and they have reached another level as he has become a Dad.

Happy Father’s Day, from our family to yours.

How to make a custom shadow box

Baby sleepers framed in a homemade shadowbox

Years ago Matt’s Mom gave us the teeny tiny sleepers Matt wore home from the hospital when he was first born. If you recall our laundry room makeover, I had hung the sleepers on the wall and mentioned that I’d someday like to make a shadow box for them.

Enamel basins and infant sleepers hanging in the laundry room

I decided the sleepers would be super cute in Ellie’s room, and it was officially time to display them properly in a shadow box.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Custom shadow boxes tend to be very expen$ive, so I knew this was something I was going to make myself. It ended up being very simple and cost much, much, much less than I expected.

Materials

  • 1×3 (choose lumber that is an appropriate width for the items that you want to frame)
  • Glass
  • Hardboard or thin plywood for backing
  • Cork sheet (optional)
  • Fabric, wall paper or paint (for backing–optional)
  • Construction adhesive (optional)
  • Finishing nails
  • Staples
  • Wood glue
  • Wire

Tools

  • Nail gun
  • Tablesaw
  • Mitre saw
  • Staple gun
  • Hammer

Method

1. Measure the item that you want to frame to determine the dimensions for your shadow box.

I figured out how I wanted the sleepers to look in the frame and then measured them, giving approximately an inch and a half of breathing space around the edge.

How to make a custom shadowbox

2. Have a piece of glass cut to your dimensions.

Our local hardware store cut the glass for me. Total cost for my 14 by 22 1/2 inch piece was an extremely reasonable $9.96. I had never bought glass before and was surprised that it was so cheap.

3. Cut grooves in 1×3 for glass and backing.

I like the depth 1x3s gave me for the sleepers. If you’re framing something bulkier, you may want to choose a wider stock.

I used my Dad’s tablesaw to cut two separate grooves in my 1×3. First was a channel for the glass. A single pass through the tablesaw was the exact width I needed for the glass. Depending on your glass, you may have to do a couple of passes. The groove is about 1/8 inch deep and about 1/4 inch from the edge of the wood.

How to make a custom shadowbox

For the backing, I cut a slightly different type of groove. I made a recess about a 1/4 inch into the depth and width of the 1×3.

How to make a custom shadowbox

4. Cut the 1×3 to length.

Use your mitre saw to cut each piece to length with 45 degree angles.

How to make a custom shadowbox

You want your wood to be ever so slightly shorter than your glass, so that the glass slides into the channels all the way around. Don’t make your frame too tight.

How to make a custom shadowbox

Take your time at this stage and dryfit, dryfit, dryfit as you go to make sure your wood and glass are fitting together perfectly. I purposely cut my pieces a bit long and then trimmed off little tiny slices to ensure a perfect length.

4. Glue and nail your 1x3s together.

Run a thin line of glue over all of your corners and nail together.

How to make a custom shadowbox

How to make a custom shadowbox

A nail gun is absolutely the best way to do this. Once you get three sides together, slide your glass into the frame before adding the fourth side.

How to make a custom shadowbox

If you don’t have a nail gun and are instead using a hammer, there’s a larger possibility of cracking the glass.

5. Cut backing for the frame.

Measure the size of panel that will fit in the recessed area on the back of your frame. Cut your backing just a little bit narrower and shorter than the opening (about an 1/8 inch all the way around). If your backing is too tight, it can loosen the joints of your frame.

How to make a custom shadowbox

6. Adhere cork to backing (optional)

I decided that the best way to attach the sleepers to the backing was going to be with pins, so I put a couple of layers of cork on the backing to give me something soft to pin to. Depending on how you’re mounting your item, this step may not be necessary.

I took a few pieces of leftover cork flooring underlay that we had and cut them to the size of the backing. Then I adhered them with construction adhesive.

7. Wrap the backing in fabric (optional)

The raw wood (or cork) of the backing may not be the most attractive. I found a piece of fabric and wrapped the backing in that for a more attractive base. You could also paint or use a scrap of fancy paper to cover your backing.

How to make a custom shadowbox

8. Mount the item.

For the sleepers, I chose to use little tiny pins to attach it to the backing. I hid the pins inside the sleeves, neck and folds of the fabric.

 

How to make a custom shadowbox

Depending on what item you’re framing, you could also use glue, tape or other tricks to mount it in your frame. Be careful whatever  you use because it may damage the item. For example, I didn’t love the idea of tape or glue residue on the sleepers.

The weight of your item will also affect how you mount it.

9. Insert the item and backing into the frame.

Carefully set the backing into the recess of the frame. Tap little finishing nails around the edge to hold the backing in place. I did this by hand very, very gently. Don’t set the nails all the way flush. You want them to stick out so they serve as a barrier to keep the backing in place.

How to make a custom shadowbox

For an extra tidy finish, you can cover the entire back side of the frame with a piece of paper. Professional frames often come with simple brown paper glued to the back of the frame. I didn’t bother doing this because I wasn’t worried about what the back looks like.

I did add a note with a marker on the back about what was in the frame.

How to make a custom shadowbox

10. String a wire across your frame for hanging.

I attached a piece of wire to the frame with two staples, one on either side. This gave me a secure line to set over my hook on the wall.

How to make a custom shadowbox

11. Hang your shadow box and admire your handiwork.

The paint stick and screw trick makes hanging anything (but particularly a shadow box) so much easier. Give yourself a break and whip one of these up.

Sleepers framed in a shadow box

I’m very happy that I finally completed this project after thinking about it for so long. A shadow box is a great way to protect these little sleepers, and it’s very special to see them everyday in Ellie’s room.

Do you have any items displayed in shadow boxes at your house? What would you like to frame in a shadow box? Have you ever built a custom frame?

How to make a custom shadow box

Hummingbirds arrive in Illinois

Wildlife sightings are one of the highlights of living at the farm. I particularly love to spot hummingbirds because they’re some of our rarer visitors. Sarah in Illinois enjoys her hummingbirds too, and she’s here today with her latest sightings.

Most days I have a to-do list a mile long, but Steve and I still take the time to sit out on our deck, have a drink and throw the ball for Blitz. We also like to watch the hummingbirds.

They seemed to show up late this year. Looking at my garden calendar (see, I use it all the time!) last year the first hummingbirds showed up on May 3. I waited patiently–well not so patiently after friends and family gave me their updates:

While I was mowing I would look over at the feeder every time I made a pass by the house.

After several days, I dumped out the syrup in the feeder and made a fresh batch. I didn’t want them to have any excuse not to stop at my house!

I finally was rewarded with a couple visitors and I shared with my friends on May 12 that I counted 6 at my feeder at one time.

I now have 4-5 regularly visiting through the day. I feel like this is less than I normally have at this time of year, but since they got a late start I am hoping that that is why I have fewer little friends.

I have talked about my love of hummingbirds before, and here is a reminder of how to make your own syrup:

Boil 4 parts water with one part white sugar just until sugar dissolves. Then let cool.

You do not need to add any food coloring. The hummingbirds will find the feeder. You can store the extra syrup in the refrigerator for a few days.

Make sure to keep an eye on your feeder. If the syrup begins to look cloudy or you see bugs, ants or other insects floating in it, throw out the syrup and add fresh.

Anyone else have their hummingbird feeders out? What breed of hummingbirds are in your area? We only see Ruby-Throated around here but I know the west coast gets a much larger variety.

Hummingbird watching sounds like a great way to end the day, Sarah. I’ve seen one bird this year, flitting around Ellie’s diapers as they dried on the clothesline! Apparently he enjoyed the bright colours.