How much of your furniture is new?

Recently, I did a mental inventory of our house. I counted 6 pieces of furniture that we bought new. All of the rest are hand-me-downs, handmade or thrifted.

The basement reading nook shows our mix: Strandmon wing chair (new, though it was a birthday gift), ottoman (made by me), stump table (made by Matt’s Dad and me), monkey art (hand-me-down from Matt’s Grandpa).

Reading nook with Ikea Strandmon wing chair

I’m pretty proud that we’ve only bought 6 things new. I like walking through a room and seeing all of the things that I’ve made or found or rehabbed. I think it makes our home personal. It also makes me feel capable when I reflect on all of the projects we’ve done.

The environmental aspect is really important to me as well. By reusing and recycling we’re reducing our impact.

Here are my 6 newbies, along with the year we purchased them. I’m curious to know what’s your number?

  1. Ellie’s dresser (2018)

Another good example of a mix from Ellie’s nursery: dresser (new–Matt’s parents covered half the cost as I was stricken with sticker shock from buying new furniture), bookshelf (thrifted and repainted), Strandmon wing chair (thrifted this time), ottoman (made by me), triangle table (hand-me-down from my grandparent’s cottage). I should note that the crib was new as well (a gift from my Mom). It has since been passed on, so it is having a second life.

Ikea Strandmon in the nursery
  1. Basement wingchair (2013)
  2. Basement ottoman (2013)
  3. Basement couch (2012)
  4. Living room couch (purchased in 2006 for our first house. Does this count as vintage now?)
  5. Living room chair (also from 2006)

This total does not include appliances, mattresses, lighting (though all of our lamps are second hand), or accessories (art, pillows, etc.).

If you look at the dates above our “new” furniture is not all that new. Holding onto things for a long time is another way to reduce our impact.

Furnishing our house in this way is financially beneficial as well. The Strandmon wingchair that I bought secondhand for Ellie’s nursery was less than half the price of a new one. Keeping the same couch for 16 years is obviously cheaper than buying a new couch.

Here’s a final mix from the basement TV area: sectional and ottoman (new), wood side table (hand-me-down from Matt’s Grandpa), lamp (thrifted and repainted), TV cabinet (made by my Dad and me), TV (new, but bought mostly with points), chair (won), Monopoly art (made by me).

Basement TV area

Mostly, I thrift and DIY for fun. This is what I like to do and I love furnishing our house in this way.

How much new furniture do you have at your house? Any great thrifting scores to share? Do you have any DIY furniture you’re particularly proud of?

Hope grows in the garden

Our garden is already underway for 2022–despite waking up to snow on the ground yesterday. Spring, where are you?

Ellie received a set of gardening tools and many packets of seeds for her birthday. She was very excited to start planting, so we have a bumper crop of tiny watermelon plants living in the dining room. I’m hoping the weather warms up before they become big watermelon plants.

The rest of her seeds are all crops that can be sown directly into the garden.

I’ve also been pruning the grapes a little bit. The grapes have been neglected (as has the rest of the garden) and they’re getting a bit wild. A longtime blogging friend, Kit, inspired me to give them some attention. I’ve not pruned as much as Kit did, as I feel like the shock might kill the vines. But I’ve tidied them up a lot, so I’m curious to see how they do this season.

I also have a line on some mulch that I’m hoping will help to subdue some of the weeds.

I aspire to have a beautiful and productive farm garden some day. We have been so, so far from that for so, so many years. I’m hoping that we can make a bit of progress this year. Ellie is extremely excited by her gardening tools (highly recommend this gift) and enthused about being helpful in the garden. So maybe this will be the year.

Are you planning to grow any food this year? Have you started your garden yet?

Maple moon

I love being outside at the farm during a full moon. Being able to see my shadow at night feels like a bit of magic. Last week we had a maple moon–a full moon that coincided with the sap running in the maple trees.

Once again, we have tapped our trees. The annual sap run and syrup making has become a fun tradition.

Ellie loves sample the sap as it drips from the trees and then monitor the sap as it boils on the stove. (We scorched our first batch, so she keeps an extra close eye now.)

Enjoying our sweet homemade syrup is a sweet treat for the rest of the year (as long as it lasts) and a continual reminder of the magic of the farm.

Mudroom to do list

The mudroom was top of the list of 2022 Home Goals that I shared last week. My plan is to focus on storage and decor–function and form.

Progress has already been made.

A grand total of 24 hooks have been installed. Excessive? Perhaps. But I subscribe to the philosophy that you can never have too many hooks.

I moved in the bench and umbrella stand that I made for our old mudroom.

We also added two dressers, which I painted last week.

They give us eight big drawers of storage, so I finally have a place to put my hats and mitts. As well as car keys, sunglasses, reusable bags, pens, notepads, phone charger, masks (who thought we’d need mask storage?) and so much more stuff.

One dresser is by the door–keys, outerwear, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. will live here. One dresser is on the landing by the kitchen. My vision is that it will become a kind of command centre for mail, papers, household stuff, and even some of Ellie’s toys.

Part of my goal with not adding built-ins right away is to discover exactly what kind of storage we need.

The dressers aren’t quite the style I’m looking for in our eventual built-ins and they’re not quite the right size for their spots, but they do the job for now. And the price was right. Matt’s Dad picked them up years ago and they lived first in his shed and then in our barn. After some repairs, a cleaning and a coat of paint, they are a great interim solution.

Here are some of the other things I’m planning to do in the mudroom.

Install dresser hardware

The dressers don’t have a lot of space to screw on drawer pulls. The centre recessed panel is actually glass, so I can’t drill through it. I’m likely going to reuse the old pulls, but I’m going to spray paint them black first.

Refinish mirror

I found a big oval mirror at a thrift store this fall. The rounded shape will be a nice contrast to all the straight lines in the room. I’m going to remove the decorative piece on the top and refinish the wood frame, aiming for a rustic finish that will go with our cedar ceiling.

Install nightlight cover plate

I remembered last week that I had one LED cover plate left from a three-pack I bought a few years ago (I was influenced by Young House Love). The mudroom would be a perfect place for a nightlight, so I dug it out. Bonus, the cover plate also has a USB port, so it will be going at my new phone charging station on the landing dresser.

Build key cupboard

During construction I had our contractors insert a little wood box that I made into the wall beside the door. This box is going to become a hidden key cupboard. A few rows of cup hooks will give us plenty of space to hang keys. For the cupboard door, I’m going to use a picture attached to hinges. Storage. ✓ Art. ✓ Function. ✓ Form. ✓

Hang art

We don’t have a lot of wall space for pictures (and I don’t want to put too many holes in the paneling). I’m planning on hanging one painting. Matt’s Mom and my Mom have both sourced art for me. Matt’s Mom gave us a painting by Matt’s Grandpa. My Mom’s friend gave her two water colours that he painted. They’re all great farm scenes, and I really like how the blue and green tones contrast with the beige paneling. (Note that despite the photo differences below they’re all close to the same size.) Which would you pick?

We are definitely at the fun stage of the mudroom. These are pretty quick, inexpensive, easy projects. All of these little details make the room function the way we need it to and personalize the space for us.

What’s your first project of 2022? How do you handle storage at your entry? How many hooks is enough?

How to make a simple Christmas tree skirt from a tablecloth

After we’d set up the tree, after we’d strung the lights and hung all the ornaments, Ellie asked, “Where’s the cape?”

The “cape,” or the tree skirt, was the final touch to hide the stand and, most important, provide a spot to rest all of the presents.

These days, there are lots of options for the base of your Christmas tree. However, I still like our simple skirt. And simple is the best word for this DIY.

I made our tree skirt from a Christmas tablecloth.

Here’s how:

Find a round tablecloth in a pattern you like. Ours is about 6 feet in diameter.

Slit the tablecloth along the radius. (In other words, cut halfway across your table cloth from the edge to the centre. You can find the centre by folding the tablecloth in half and then in quarters. You’ll have a generous slice of pie. The point of the pie is the centre of your tablecloth.)

Cut a 6 inch diameter circle out of the middle of your tablecloth. This will be where the tree trunk goes. Use a plate or another round object as your pattern.

Sew a zigzag stitch around the edge of the trunk cutout and the slit to prevent your fabric from fraying.

Attach velcro along either side of the slit.

Drape your tablecloth around the bottom of the tree. Use the velcro to close the skirt. Put the velcro at the back of the tree so it isn’t visible.

And voila. Your Christmas tree now has a beautiful cape.

Does your Christmas tree have a cape? How do you style the bottom of your tree? Have you ever used a tablecloth for something other than a table? How many presents are under your tree so far?

The mudroom is painted – Plus 5 tips for spray painting a room

The mudroom is painted. The mudroom is painted. The mudroom is painted. Yay! Yay! Yay!

(And we even have some hooks.)

The spray painting was a bit of a saga, but not because of the spraying. The first sprayer I rented ended up being double booked (and I was the odd woman out). After a quick scramble I found another sprayer to rent, but when I got it home, it didn’t work (turned out to be a clogged hose). Third time’s the charm, and I finally had a working sprayer by lunch on spray day.

The spraying itself was pretty easy. I was not a pro by any means, but the paint went on fairly evenly and covered very well.

I decided to do all of the trim the same colour as the panelling (Abalone from Benjamin Moore at 75%). It’s a change from the rest of our house where the trim is painted white, but I like the seamless single colour in the mudroom. Plus, I don’t think white in a mudroom is the best choice for the way we live.

I was able to get two coats on in one day. Each coat took just a half hour. Then I let the paint dry overnight and took off all the masking the next day. When I was able to get a good look at the room, I was proud. The finish is not perfect, but I’m going to call it great. For the V-groove panelling and all the edges we had with the trim and hookboards, spraying was definitely easy.

Here are some lessons I learned from my first time spray painting:

Spraying uses lots of paint. The mudroom is not a big room (140 square feet), but I went through two full gallons.

PPE is critical. The paint aerosolizes. Any time I took off my mask or glasses, I could feel the particles stinging my eyes and throat. Don’t skimp on your protection (a hat and gloves are also helpful).

Have a brush just in case. You can gently brush out drips or “spits” without messing up your finish too much.

Mask, mask, mask. Cover anything that you don’t want painted. For us that meant the entire floor, the entire ceiling, the exterior door, the garage door knob and deadbolt, the archway to the kitchen, plugs, switches and the floor thermostat. Check your masking to make sure it remains in place throughout painting.

Keep the sprayer outside. Switching buckets and setting up the sprayer resulted in some splatters and drips around the machine by the end of the day. I put the sprayer in the garage on a sheet of plastic and pulled the hose inside, which meant that most of the mess stayed in the garage.

The paint feels like a big milestone. I sprayed the whole room by myself and it turned out well. Yay me! It’s also the last item on my mudroom to-do list. Now I can move on to fun stuff like decor and storage. In fact, we’re already using those hooks and have moved in some of our coats.

Have you ever spray painted a room before? Do you have any tips to share? Do you have any DIY sagas to share?

Five tips to tackle a new DIY

This week I am going to spray paint the mudroom. Honestly, I’m a bit intimidated. I’ve never used a paint sprayer before, and painting a whole room seems like a big place to start. Plus I’m really proud of the mudroom and I don’t want to mess it up.

But I feel like a sprayer will give me the best finish (provided I do it well) and be fast. If it ends up not going well, I’m reminding myself that most of the walls will eventually be hidden behind coats, cabinets, a bench, mirror and more.

As I prepare to tackle this new-to-me DIY, I thought I’d share some of the ways I make a project like this less intimidating. I’d love to hear your tips as well.

Research

Take some time to figure out the best way to approach your project. I started by investigating the options for painting the V-groove panelling. Was there a really fluffy roller that would work? (Answer: Maybe, but the finish might end up a bit goopy. And I’d still have to do a lot of cutting in that would take a lot of time and also maybe not give me the finish I’m looking for.)

Once I settled on spraying, I called the rental store and booked the sprayer. I have since watched a lot of YouTube videos for the exact sprayer model that I will be using as well as other paint sprayers. I want to understand how they work and the proper technique.

YouTube, online tutorials, a manual, professional advice–there are lots of resources to help you tackle whatever you’re looking to do. You’re not in this alone.

Take your time

I am not a fan of jumping right into a project. I like to plan and think things through. I gave myself a week to reserve the sprayer, prep the mudroom, gather materials (more on this below) and learn as much as I can about paint spraying.

For spray-day, I’ve also tried to give myself as much time as possible. I’m picking the sprayer up first thing in the morning, and my Mom is booked to pick Ellie up from preschool, so I don’t have the pressure of a ticking clock when I’m painting.

Taking your time may mean booking time off work or having childcare lined up. Clearing your schedule means you can focus on your project and feel less stress.

Gather your tools and materials

When you’re taking on a new project, you may not know exactly how everything is going to go and exactly what you’ll need. Having your tools and materials ready can make things go more smoothly and ensure you’re prepared for the unexpected.

Maybe you’re going to try some plumbing. Have a bucket and extra towels, along with your full toolbox and any specific plumbing tools (wrenches in multiple sizes, a roll of teflon tape, etc).

I have my paint ready to go. I also have extra buckets, rolls of masking tape, sheets of paper and plastic and PPE.

Enlist help

Two heads are better than one. Many hands make light work. There’s truth in these sayings. Even if your helper doesn’t know what they’re doing either, sometimes it’s easier to figure things out together.

One of my friends suggested meeting up this week. I invited her to help me mask the mudroom–yes, I’m that kind of a friend. As she is also that kind of a friend, she said yes. A second pair of hands will make putting up the plastic to protect the cedar ceiling much easier.

Friend, family, neighbour, partner–lots of people are willing to help. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Focus on the reward

I am so excited to have the mudroom painted. Not for the painting itself, but for what comes next. Storage, hooks, decorating–all of the fun stuff. The thought of getting to the fun stuff motivates me to get through the painting.

Plus, if the spraying works out, I’ll have a new skill to add to my DIY repertoire.

Other rewards of DIY are saving money, finishing a space, fixing a problem, beautifying your home.

DIY can be intimidating. But like anything there’s a learning curve. Each project I tackle builds my confidence for the next one and the one after that.

If you’re thinking of trying something at your house, go for it. With a bit of preparation, you can make it happen.

How do you prepare for a new-to-you project? What’s a DIY skill you’ve learned? Is there a project that you’re nervous about tackling? Any tips for spray painting?

Mudroom door in Knoxville Gray

We had our first snowfall. We’ve had flurries, but yesterday there was finally enough snow to stick on the ground for a few hours. The time for outdoor work is coming to an end, and I’m glad that I crossed painting the mudroom door off my list a few weeks ago.

I chose a grey-turquoise, Knoxville Gray from Benjamin Moore. In pictures it looked like a nice, dark, saturated, not too bright turquoise. On the BM website, it looks grey. (And on a dim snowy day it looks quite blue.)

As I started to paint, I was questioning my choice. It was grey.

I had nice weather. It was a preschool day, so I had time.

I. Was. Painting. The. Door.

I envisioned speeding into town to get the can retinted to more blue, more green, more colour.

And then it started to dry. And it wasn’t grey. It wasn’t blue. It wasn’t green. It was the perfect nice, dark, saturated, not too bright turquoise.

Phew.

Next up, painting the rest of the mudroom (an inside job that will hopefully begin this week).

Who else has questioned their colour choice mid-paint job? Do you have any outdoor projects you’re trying to finish? Have you had any snow yet?

New compost bin

Every farm has a junk pile. For us, our junk pile was along the tree line beside the garden. As we cleaned up other areas around the property, this was the spot we stashed things that we didn’t want to deal with.

Past owners had piled concrete blocks, bricks, old windows and barn doors. We added a basketball net (left behind by those same past owners), planters (past owners), composters (past owners), wood fence posts, two big hay bales, and more barn doors. This is also the spot I chose to dump clippings and weeds from the gardens. It was unmowable, unruly and unattractive.

This year, I decided it was time to tackle the junk pile.

The old windows (all of which had broken) went to the dump. The barn doors (which had mostly rotted) were burned. The hay bales went into the garden. Matt’s Dad trimmed low hanging branches so the tractor could drive through. Bricks were restacked, and then we added more with the brick that we removed for the garage renovation. So the junk pile hasn’t gone away. But it’s tidier than it was.

All year I’ve slowly pushed the junk back closer to the tree line and mowed farther and farther from the garden.

The last thing I wanted to tackle was the garden dump pile. It was years of raspberry canes, flowers, shrubs, vegetables, plants and weeds. All just dumped on the ground in an ever expanding blob.

My solution to contain the blob was a new compost bin. Matt’s Dad collected some skids for me. I used leftover deck blocks and 4x4s from the treehouse (of random lengths), and I made a large three-sided bin. I only made three sides, as I want to be able to dump the wheelbarrow into it easily. I also figure with this design the pile might be fairly easy to turn.

Skids are a common material these days for compost bins, but most bins are four-sided. I’ll see how our three-sided bin works and adjust if I need to.

I built the bin and then used the tractor to push the existing pile of garden waste into its new home. Then I dismantled the composter behind the house and added its contents to the new bin. The composter, though convenient to the kitchen, had come apart and the plastic had warped so much that I wasn’t able to put it back together.

My new solution for kitchen waste is a five gallon pail with a lid in the garage. I dump the kitchen compost into the pail and once a week or so carry the pail over to the garden and dump it in the big compost bin. I think this will give us a better mix of brown and green materials and I like the simplicity of having all of our compost in one spot.

I did the final vegetable garden clean out last week and added this year’s clippings to the new bin. We now have a wide swath beside the garden that we’ll be able to mow next year.

Let’s have a spring to fall before and after, shall we? Then I am crossing the last big junk pile off my Home Goals 2021 list.

Do you have a junk pile at your house? Who else is trying to finish off outdoor projects before the weather changes? What kind of compost bin do you have? Any compost tips to share?

The treehouse playground is done

The treehouse is done.

It went from a spark of an idea to a quick sketch to reality.

And I am thrilled.

It is such a fun place to play. Ellie and I spend a lot of time here. We read books, act out Frozen, eat pretend and real food (her outdoor play kitchen lives next door to the treehouse), play with dolls and stuffed animals. Everyone is welcome in the treehouse–even my Mom has climbed up.

I’m also really proud. It’s been a long time since I’ve built something like this. I had help at various points, but I did a lot on my own. It took figuring and muscle and time. But it was all worth it. It is solid and safe and fun and matches the picture in my mind.

I’m also excited because Ellie loves it. She’s mastered the tire ladder and keeps sliding down the firepole (with help). One day, she did circuits, sliding down the slide, running around to the tires and climbing back up, over and over again.

Want a tour?

I have always wanted a tire ladder. The playground at my elementary school had a tire ladder, and the memory of climbing up has stuck with me. Plus we have a large quantity of tires lying around the farm, and this was a way to use some of them up.

The tires are bolted to the wood frame of the treehouse and then to each other. To make the tires easier to climb, I realized I needed to convince them to slope, rather than hang vertical. I ended up digging a hole at the base of the ladder and sinking a couple of concrete blocks under the ground. I wired the bottom tires to the blocks and buried the whole thing.

Even with the slope, the tire ladder is not that easy to climb, especially if you’re really little or really big. So I added a regular ladder too. I built a simple sloped ladder out of 2×6 that is easy for little ones, Mamas and Grandmas to climb.

The slide was a kijiji find after I decided the slide I picked out of someone’s garbage was too broken. The kijiji slide still needed some fibreglass in a few spots, but it seems to be solid now.

The slide resulted in the biggest adjustment I had to make to the treehouse plans. I had built the deck at 5 feet high, which seemed to be the right height for our 10 foot slide.

At Krista’s treehouse, my inspiration, their deck had ended up too high, and they had to build a few steps down to lower the slide. I wanted to avoid that. But as soon as I propped the slide up onto our deck, it was obvious it was too high. Ellie bravely went down twice, but it was scary fast.

Rather than steps, I did a lower platform and attached the slide to that. Now the slide is fast, but not scary.

The firepole took a bit of figuring and sourcing. I ended up constructing it out of 1 1/2 inch metal electrical conduit. There is a joint, as we needed a bit more than the ten feet that was available at the store. But the joint is pretty low on the pole, so it’s unlikely anyone will have to slide over it. Just in case, I wrapped it in tape to make sure it doesn’t pinch or scrape anyone.

The base of the pole extends into the ground and is encased in concrete. At the top, the pole turns 90 degrees and is affixed to both the treehouse railing and the tree itself. It is solid. In fact, it’s my preferred way to get down.

The structure of the treehouse sits on 4×4 posts set on deck blocks. The joists are 2×6 and the beams are 2×8. The joists are also bolted to the tree.

I bought the main posts new, but most of the lumber is recycled. The joists, beams and 2x4s on the railings came from the deck in the old pool. The deck boards came from a local deck builder’s dumpster (with permission). The railing pickets I bought second hand off kijiji. I also raided our stash in the barn for extra pieces.

The platform is about 5 feet high at the tree, but because the tree is on a little mound, the edges of the platform are about 6 1/2 feet off the ground. The main platform is about 10 feet by 12 feet and the slide extension is about 2 feet wide.

We have a great view across the fields, and I can envision Ellie (or me) relaxing up there with a book someday.

This was a fun project to plan, build and now use. I’m glad that I was able to make it for Ellie.

Did you have a treehouse growing up? What would your dream treehouse have? What was your favourite part of a playground? Do you have a summer project that you’re particularly proud of?