Makeover motivation from a mini One Room Challenge

It’s that time again. The One Room Challenge is taking over the blogosphere. It started last week and runs until May 10. More than 200 bloggers, 200 rooms and 200 inspiring makeovers.

I’m looking forward to all of the beautiful content arriving in my feedly over the next four weeks.

Once again this year, I’m not participating in the One Room Challenge. I’ve loved participating in the past and especially loved the results of our laundry room and master bedroom. But this time around, I don’t have a room ready for the six week timeline.

However, I do have a room mid-makeover. My office.

I’m thinking I can use the One Room Challenge and all of the activity of my fellow bloggers to motivate me to Finally. Finish. This. Room.

Office mid-makeover

So this is it. I’m setting a deadline, people. May 10. The office will be done.

Here’s my original to-do list, and where we’re at:

  • Scrape ceiling – Finished over the Christmas break–oh so long ago.
  • Paint ceiling, trim and walls – Finished over the Christmas break.
  • Add new shelf to closet – Finished and already filled.
  • Redo china cabinet and desk – Finished and partially filled.
  • Reupholster slipper chair – Finished and it’s oh so pretty.
  • Reupholster ironing board – Finished thanks to a lucky thrifting score.
  • Unpack all of my boxes and decorate – Started.

That last item is where I’ve been a bit stuck. I had so many boxes, which had been packed for at least five years–some of them longer. Also, decorating is kind of a big thing.

I know myself, and I know I’ll do better if I can break it down into smaller pieces.

So here’s the new to-do list of the remaining items:

  • Buy and install light fixture – I somehow forgot that I need a new light for this room since I removed and trashed the boob light that was here originally.
  • Unpack remaining boxes and organize china cabinet
  • Style china cabinet shelves
  • Sort and file paperwork
  • Install gallery wall #1
  • Install gallery wall #2
  • Reupholster seat of wooden chair

Totally doable, right? It’s mini compared to the full room makeovers other people are tackling through the ORC.

As slow as work has been on the office, it has been ongoing, even though I haven’t shared many updates. This weekend I made some progress on a few little shelves that will be part of the gallery walls.

Painting little shelves

I’m going to start sharing regular updates here to help myself stay on track. I’m not going to be sharing my makeover through the official ORC linkups on Calling It Home, though, because mine is so mini. I do encourage you to visit Calling It Home and checking out all of the projects for yourself.

And stay tuned here. Soon enough–with a little motivation from the ORC–I’ll be able to reveal the finished office. Four weeks to go.

Are you following any ORC makeovers? Official ones? Are you doing any makeovers yourself? How do you find motivation to finish off a makeover?

Grey days

Two grey days, exactly three weeks apart.

Snowy field in mid March

I swear as of this week I’m seeing the fields turn green. I can handle grey skies when I feel spring is coming.

Field at the beginning of April

This bird’s eye view is courtesy of a deer stand at the edge of the back field.

Looking down from the deer stand at Baxter on the ground

A great way to see the farm. But too tall for puppy.

Deer stand

As excited as I am for the green, last night we had a few snow flurries. C’mon spring!

What’s the weather like where you are? Are you seeing signs of spring?

Projects, painting and progress in Illinois

Sarah in Illinois is here today with an update on how she’s done on her monthly projects.

If you have been keeping track, it’s been three months since I announced that I was setting a goal of one project a month. So how have I done?

Let’s start with Blitz’s house.

It’s painted, and that was my goal. I really thought that I would have the roof shingled too, but that didn’t get done. For the paint, I used some concrete floor latex epoxy that we had sitting around. It would not have been my first choice if I went to the store and picked it out, but I think it will work very well. And the epoxy will help protect it from the weather.

My second project is by far my favorite and the one I am most proud of. I told you that we had sneakily taken my grandma’s St. Francis statue from her yard.

It was starting to crack and the paint was faded and flaking. When I last posted about it I showed a little progress.

And now:

Yes, that really is the same statue.

I want to maybe touch up his facial features a little, but I can say that I am very happy with the outcome, and I can’t wait to give it back to my grandma.

And since I love a good before and after:

For my final project from my list I was supposed to prime and paint our hallway. I will call it about 75% complete.

It is primed, and I did start painting, but I really thought I had more paint left. If I have more, I sure as heck can’t find it. So I will take what little info I remember about it (it is semigloss and the color is called Toll Booth), and I will go back to where I got it and hope they can mix me up some more. I am frustrated because the color runs throughout our house and if for some reason I can’t find a match I am going to have quite a problem.

So there you have it, not completely done, but I have made some headway. I love having this goal out here in the public because it made me focus on my three projects and not get distracted like I so often do.

To keep motivated I will set my next three months goals in my next post. You can be assured that they will be garden related.

Good job, Sarah. That statue looks amazing. Your grandmother will be so surprised. That’s really special. I’ve done the paint colour match thing before, and it’s worked out fairly well. Just to be safe, I suggest trying to make the “break” at a corner or other dividing point. 

Pick up sticks, farm style

Baxter behind a fallen tree

One of the common springtime jobs is picking up the branches and twigs that have fallen into the yard. When your yard is 129 acres, this job goes to another level.

I’ve written before about our trails and how we haven’t done a great job of maintaining them. Early in the winter, a decent size tree came down right across the entry of the west trail.

Cleaning this up will be much more than just picking up sticks.

Fallen tree across the trail

But for now, we’re letting fallen trees lie.

Last week, Baxter and I clambered over it to check out the rest of the trails.

This is actually a magic time to walk the trails. We’re not slogging through snow, wading through (much) water, battling masses of mosquitoes or dealing with overgrown grass and brush.

The trails are wet though. Matt and his Dad had laid a catwalk through the first marshy section, but it floated away a little while ago. We can sneak around on the right edge of the trail, but, of course, a tree has fallen to block the way. It’s a choice of hurdle or limbo and don’t fall in the water.

Hiking through the marsh

Farther along, we have an actual creek crossing. This section never ever dries up and will be deep and fast flowing in a few more weeks. As you can see, the catwalk in this area has also washed out.

Crossing the creek

The willow on the other side of the creek has lost a large limb.

Fallen tree branch

Deeper into the woods, we climb to higher ground and the forest changes to evergreens–including new trees that have sprouted in the middle of the trail.

Hiking through an evergreen forest

At the end of the trail, we reach the east boundary of our property. Looking to the north, somewhere on the other side of this marsh, is the other half of our trail network.

Overlooking the marsh

Baxter and I backtracked so that we could check it out too.

The east trail is not nearly as wet. There’s a creek at the entrance, but an old corduroy road topped with a plank makes crossing easy.

Corduroy road

The east trail has the same tree issues as the west, though. We’ve had a super windy winter, so some fairly large trees have fallen.

Baxter under a fallen tree

Baxter under a fallen tree

I’m on the lookout for a brigade of forest rangers with chainsaws who want to give me a few weeks of free labour.

If they are wearing hip waders that would be great.

Wading in the water

Bax and I did discover a few things that could help with our water issues.

At the edge of the back field are a couple of large piles of tires. Aren’t these ugly? I still think we could upgrade our catwalks using these as “piers” and laying skids across them to make a boardwalk.

Tires thrown away in the woods

Alternatively, we could channel the water with these culverts. I continue to be amazed at what’s been abandoned and dumped on the property.

Culverts

For now, barring the arrival of any forest rangers, I’m happy to just enjoy the farm and our trails. And that’s my plan for the weekend.

What are your plans for the weekend? Do you do pick up sticks at your house in the spring?

 

Sweet and sour saga of syrup making

Homemade maple syrup

Maple syrup. Sap, sugar, sweetness–so much goodness. Our maple syrup making this spring has been great–except for one incident that can only be described as terrible.

I try to be a positive person, so we’ll start with the good.

We tapped five maple trees at the start of this month (about two weeks earlier than last year), and we are having such a good run of sap. Warm weather the first week of March brought 30 litres on a good day–way more than last year.

We were a bit overwhelmed. We have only so many large containers to store sap and the fridge was full of food with no space for sap–thank goodness for the cold cellar. We’re low tech syrup makers, so we boil all of our sap on our stove, which takes a long time. Getting 30 litres of sap down to syrup on an average weeknight has made for some very late nights.

But right from the start the syrup was great. Our first run gave us a bit more than 3 litres of very light syrup. (Syrup gets darker as the season progresses. I only photographed our first 1.5 litres).

Homemade maple syrup

A cold spell put the run on hold for a couple of days, then we started again and got about 80 litres of sap over last weekend. When we finished our full weekend of boiling on Sunday night, we had 2.5 litres of incredibly sweet syrup–magic. (See how it’s darker than the first run?)

Homemade maple syrup

The run continued into the start of this week, and by Tuesday evening we had about another 80 litres of sap on its way to syrup.

And then things took a turn.

Early Wednesday morning–very early, 1 am early–something woke me up. A couple of seconds later, the smoke alarm went off. Matt–and a whole lot of smoke–were in the kitchen when I opened the bedroom door. In fact, the smoke was absolutely everywhere. Syrup was pretty much everywhere too.

It had boiled over the pot, flowed across the stove top, overflowed the stove top, ran down onto the floor, behind the cabinet, under the stove, across the kitchen floor. It was a mess like I’ve never seen.

Matt sent the smoking pot outside, and we started sopping up the burned syrup. I’m not quite sure how to describe the next hour. Sticky. Smokey. Smelly. Not how you want to spend the time between 1 and 2 am. Those all apply.

We pulled the stove out of its spot so that we could mop behind and underneath. I mopped again the next morning before I went to work to deal with the residual stickiness. We scraped the stovetop as much as we could but there’s still a black ring of burnt syrup. I’m sure syrup is behind and under the cabinet, but I’m not moving that. The house still smells like burnt sugar three days later. The charred pot is still sitting on the lawn.

Burnt maple syrup

Burnt maple syrup

At the final minute when sap turns into syrup–around 219 degrees Fahrenheit–it gets foamy and bubbles up in the pan. We had both accidentally fallen asleep and missed this magic syrup moment. So the bubbling and foaming accelerated until it took over the whole stove and a portion of the kitchen.

Checking the temperature on maple syrup

Our frustration at losing so much syrup and so many hours of work is significant. However, we completely recognize that we only lost syrup. The red coals of charred sugar that I saw on our stove when I first entered the kitchen on Wednesday morning remind me that our loss could have been much, much worse.

We’re going to try again, though. Matt insists that we not end our syrup season this way. After sub zero temperatures for the past few days, the sap started running again yesterdays\ afternoon. We have a container of sap that will go on the stove this weekend.

And we have a new plan that all boiling stops at midnight, whether we have syrup or not.

Maple syrup. Sap, sugar, sweetness–so much goodness. Sap, sugar, smoke, spills–so terrible.

But more sweetness ahead.

Project ADD

Sewing desk

Ahhh. A week’s vacation. What a treat.

Time with family, watching TV and a few movies, reading, writing, sleeping in.

In between all of this relaxing, though, I’m not sure what I accomplished last week. As you can probably guess, I begin most vacations with somewhat ambitious plans of things I’m going to do around the house. I’ve learned to manage my expectations and that I enjoy my vacations more if I don’t put pressure on myself to finish all the things.

However, I usually finish at least some of the things. Not so this time.

I feel like I’m coming out of this vacation with a whole bunch of half-started and un-started projects. Everything from a spring living room refresh, new pillows for the basement, a dress I’m sewing and of course the never-ending office makeover.

I’m usually pretty good about keeping myself focused on one particular project. So having a list of things that I want to happen all over the house is making me a bit twitchy.

But I’m also excited. Maybe spring is in the air.

Who am I? Where did this project ADD come from?

Some of these projects are dependent on each other. I needed to get the office set up again–or at least my sewing machine–so that I can sew the pillows and my dress. The new pillows in the basement will mean some of the other pillows move upstairs to be part of the living room refresh.

Another week off would be very helpful to get all of this done. But I’m happy with how last week went.

You may notice in the photo above that my slipper chair is almost upholstered. Just two pesky corners to go. And a morning at the local fabric district with my Mom means I have all of the supplies for my other various projects.

I’m looking forward to these spring projects.

Do you have any spring projects on your list? Do you like productive or relaxing vacations?

Second year for syrup

Tapping a maple tree

It’s maple syrup season again on the farm. Or we think it is.

This is only our second time tapping our trees, so we’re still pretty much guessing. Temperatures are supposed to be above freezing during the day this week and below at night. From what I’ve read and what we learned last year, that’s sap weather.

Last year, we were impressed by how easy it was and how much syrup we made. In fact, we still have syrup left. We just don’t eat enough pancakes at our house.

But we’re not letting that stop us. We enjoyed making syrup last year, so we’re going to do it again.

Like so much of what we do on the farm, this is an experiment, so we’re learning as we go.

Lesson #1: Make sure the drill battery is charged (and the back-up too) before you start tapping. Mr. Dewalt had to hang out for a little while until the bit could spin enough to get him unstuck.

Drill stuck in a tree

Matt has picked a couple of new trees. The only issue is they’re not the easiest to access. More incentive to clean up the brush and junk along the edge of the field.

Tapping maple trees

The other three buckets went on our most productive trees from last year. (Can you spot the puppy?)

Tapping maple trees

Now our fingers are crossed that the weather cooperates and the sap starts flowing.

Lessons from the universe

I don’t quite know how to describe this week.

In the post I had originally written for today, I talked about how despite being frustrated at how slowly the office makeover is moving, I had taken some time away from it to focus on other aspects of my life. Vacuuming my floors, cleaning my bathroom, cooking dinner, donating a big pile of items–little things, but crossing them off my list gives me peace of mind. So as of Sunday afternoon, I was feeling pretty good about life. I had even made some progress on the office too.

Donation pile

But then a couple of hours later, driving along with a car full of items about to be donated, my brakes gave out. I had just enough pressure that I was able to stop the car safely, get home and then get to the mechanic on Monday morning.

It turned out the repair is a big job and more money than I want to put into my 14-year-old car.

So this week has been about buying a car–I definitely don’t have time or focus to work on the office or stay on top of other parts of my life.

I was able to borrow a car from my parents, so I could get back and forth to work–no choice but to stay on top of that. Then, on Wednesday night I came out of the office and the car wouldn’t start. Several hours and a tow truck ride later, I was home and once again vehicle-less.

So I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but the universe is not on my side this week.

I’m trying to look on the bright side. (Happiness is a choice, right?)

I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else when my brakes failed.

I have access to a vehicle that saves me the cost of renting a car.

I was able to work from home for a couple of days when I couldn’t make it into the office.

I’ve been saving my money because I knew I was going to have to buy a new car soon, so I can afford to buy the car I want, even if it’s a bit earlier than I’d hoped.

My parents have a CAA membership, so there was no charge for the tow truck.

The tow truck driver was very kind and dropped me at home before taking the car to a mechanic near my parents (nearly an hour from my work where we started).

My parents’ car is now fixed.

And I bought my car last night and should have it early next week.

Bright side. Bright side. Bright side.

Also on the bright side, it’s Friday. I am ready to leave this week behind and start fresh next week.

But between now and then there are a few more bright spots on the horizon. This weekend I am going to be spending some time my brother and his fiancée and meeting my brand new nephew (just 10 days old!–and just to be clear the nephew is not my brother’s… it’s Matt’s brother’s :)).

And I do have some news about the office makeover to share, so I’ll be back with a full update on the project on Monday. Because despite the universe’s plans for me, progress has been made. Slowly but surely.

Looking for robot vacuum recommendations

Vacuums are sucking up a lot of my thoughts these days. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist).

After much debate, we bought a Sebo canister vac several years ago, which works very well–when I use it.

I’m just not good at vacuuming, people. I don’t mean it’s beyond my ability. It’s just beyond my desire. There are approximately 8 million other things I’d rather do than vacuum.

So that means that dog hair, farm dirt, project dust (actual sawdust this week) accumulate. Our floors are regularly a disaster.

I long for a robot vacuum, but our Sebo was expensive. I feel like I can’t justify spending a not insignificant amount of money on another vacuum just because I’m lazy.

But then the universe started talking to me, sending me signs.

My sister got a Neato Robotics Botvac. (Isn’t that a great name?) And she loves it.

Neato Robotics Botvac

When I was at her house the other week, I spent some time following the vacuum around, watching it navigate the room and throwing things in front of it just to watch it pick them up. It did. (Aren’t I an amazing guest? You totally want me to come to your house, don’t you?)

John and Sherry at Young House Love talked about how their Roomba didn’t live up to their expectations in a recent podcast.

And then Thalita at The Learner Observer posted about her crumb-fighting, dog-hair-sucking sidekick bObi.

So I’m putting it out there to the universe. Anyone have any opinions on robot vacuums? Any recommendations on one that can handle an incredibly sheddy dog as well as farm dirt and a household under near constant renovation? Is it worth the investment? What chores do you struggle with?