Cats and dogs and grass stains in the dark

It was late Wednesday night. I was getting ready for bed. From outside through the window I heard a terrible yowl. It sounded cat-like, so of course my first panicked thought was, “Ralph!”

I ran for the front door calling for Matt as I went. Baxter had heard the yowl as well, so he was right with me. I snapped on his leash and we dashed outside. Matt headed for the barn, Ralph’s usual hangout. I realized that neither Baxter nor I had thought to grab a flashlight, so I ducked back inside for one. Then Baxter and I headed for the back of the house where the yowl had originated. Despite my best whistles and even with the flashlight there was no sign of Ralph.

I was thinking clearly enough to realize that our puppy is a pretty sniffy guy, so when it seemed like he’d caught a scent, I trotted along behind him, holding tight to the leash. Down a little hill, up a couple of steps, across the patio, over to the stand of pines and then in the weak beam of the flashlight she was there. A grey furry ball huddled at the base of one of the big trees.

Between the dark and the yowls and the scents, Baxter was a bit excited, so he forgot about all of the good lessons he’s learned over the last little while. Specifically, he forgot:

  1. Cats are boring.
  2. We don’t chase kitties.
  3. Ralph is Julia’s and Matt’s cat. I have to be gentle with things that belong to Julia and Matt.

I’m sure you can guess what happened.

As Baxter took off after Ralph, he pulled me off my feet, down a hill–a little one but it was steep, and towards a thicket. It was only a second or so, but it’s one of those moments that seems much longer than it actually is. All I could think was, “Holy cow he’s strong. I can’t stop him. How far is he going to drag me?”

Baxter did stop before we got too far into the thicket. I had dirt under my fingernails, mud on my palms and grass stains and a scratch on my knee.

Oh, and did I mention I was wearing my pyjamas? Ten minutes ago I was headed to bed! How do things like this happen?

Matt, who was on the opposite side of the thicket, was unsure who needed help most. Remember, this was in the complete dark and even with my flashlight we couldn’t see very much. We determined that I was okay. Matt should focus on convincing Ralph to come out of the thicket, and I would deal with the moron dog.

Okay, he’s not a complete moron. He did find the kitty.

Baxter and I went the opposite way around the house to walk off some of our excitement. Matt has a better whistle than I do, so Ralph eventually came to him. He checked her over, and she seemed to be fine. We have no idea whether she yowled or she made someone else yowl.

My grass stains and I finally headed to bed. Baxter was too restless to sleep. Eventually he convinced Matt to take him outside again for a final check to make sure all was well at the farm.

By the next afternoon, Baxter and Ralph were calmer, but not entirely easy with each other. (And by the way, this picture is incredible progress considering that a year ago Ralph couldn’t stand the sight of any dog, and Baxter’s reaction was to pursue her (literally) even more aggressively).

Baxter and Ralph

Oh the adventures of country living.

Have you ever ended up with grass stains on your pyjamas? Has anyone else ever tried to teach a dog and cat to get along?

Hand-knit felted slippers

A sure sign it’s fall for me is the return of slippers.

A sure sign I need new slippers is this picture. Shameful!

Holey slippers

My friends had tried to convince me to throw these out more than a year ago. Honestly, I completely agreed with them. The problem was I had nothing to replace my raggedy slippers.

All of this is to explain how I found myself spending time this summer sitting on a beach with knitting needles in my hands.

Knitting on the beach

Et voilà!

Hand knitted slippers before felting

Confused? Check them out after a few turns in the washing machine.

French Press Felted Slippers

Still confused?

These are French Press Felted Slippers. It’s my fifth time making these slippers. The idea is that you knit over-sized slippers out of real wool and then throw them in the washing machine in super hot water. They shrink down to the size they’re supposed to be and the material becomes stiff and fabricy.

Felting is a pretty neat process. The final product is very solid. You can even cut it and it won’t unravel like regular knitting.

However, I’m not relying on my slipper’s natural density to avoid having another holey situation. I had some leftover fake leather, so I cut some soles out of that and stitched it onto the bottom of the slippers.

Let’s try this picture again.

Leather soles sewn on knitted slippers

Much cozier without the holes.

Are there any other knitters out there? Have you ever felted anything? How about anyone else with holes in their slippers… or even your socks?

Challenges in the One Room Challenge

The recommended theme for today’s One Room Challenge update is setbacks. It turns out that this is actually a fitting topic for this point in the laundry room makeover.

Setback 1: The times in between

I’m not sure if anyone else has this problem, but this one’s a common challenge for me in DIYing. In between each stage of a project, I sometimes find it hard to change gears.

I finished painting the cabinets, but then the idea of getting the ceiling ready for painting–never mind actually painting it–was extremely challenging.

A great thing about the One Room Challenge is it helps keep me moving.

Baseboard in the laundry room

Baseboards installed. Yay!

As I posted on Friday, work kicked my butt last week. I fought back, putting in extra time and staying late at the office. Of course, this meant that I had less time at home to work on the laundry room. Which meant that I finally started painting the ceiling at 9pm the night before my scheduled deadline.

I’m sure time will be a common challenge among ORC participants. Heck, finding time is a common challenge of DIYers everywhere, I think.

However, I am very pleased to report that I’m nearly on schedule. Here’s the original plan with adjusted deadlines and a few new tasks.

  1. Add shaker style trim to the cabinets
  2. Paint the cabinets
  3. Install doors and drawers
  4. Remove ceiling rack – By Oct. 3
  5. Patch ceiling and walls – By Oct. 3
  6. Prime walls (pshaw, who needs prime?) and paint ceiling – By Oct. 10
  7. Paint and install baseboard and paint window trim – By Oct. 10 I was a bit behind schedule on install, but it’s done as of Oct. 13
  8. Deep clean (sink, counter, floor, machines) – Oct. 13 (Happy Thanksgiving Monday!) Rescheduled to Oct.19
  9. Paint walls (first coat is on, one more to go) – By Oct. 17
  10. New Replace ivory washer outlet with white one – By Oct. 19
  11. Level washing machine – By Oct. 19
  12. Build and install ceiling rack – By Oct. 24
  13. Build and install towel bar – By Oct. 24
  14. Install cabinet hardware – By Oct. 24 Rescheduled to Nov. 11 due to setback #3 (see below)
  15. Build and install light fixture – By Oct. 26
  16. New Remove non-working sprayer from the sink and plug the hole – By Oct. 26
  17. Decorate – By Oct. 31

So it might be a problem that I keep remembering new tasks to add to the list. It seems like I’m adding things as fast as I’m crossing them off. However, the progress is continuing despite a couple more setbacks.

Setback 2: Paint

The second setback isn’t really serious enough to be classified as a setback. It’s more of a lesson learned.

Painting the laundry room

When it comes to painting ceilings, I just use white primer. We had a bit of primer left in the giant pail that we used for the rest of the basement reno. To make sure the colour was absolutely consistent, I wanted to use this primer. Well, it turns out that this paint has been sitting a little too long. There were all kinds of hardened bits in it. It made painting the laundry room ceiling incredibly frustrating. I got a mostly smooth finish, but I only did one coat. I think it looks good enough. If I have to, I will strain the paint and go again.

The other lesson learned (or confirmed) when it comes to paint is that BM Wrought Iron definitely has blue undertones. I first used Wrought Iron in Matt’s windowless bathroom. There it looks pretty pure, super dark grey. In the laundry room, where there’s lots of natural light from the window, the cabinets look a bit navy blue sometimes.

For the wall colour, we walked up the paint strip and chose a much lighter tone of grey from the same slip as Wrought Iron. It’s close to Bunny Gray (read the story of our Frankencolour). We already knew that this one was slightly blue as we used it on all of the other walls throughout the basement. I had intended that the walls and the cabinets would be a purer grey, but I don’t care enough to repaint.

Plus, anything’s better than that yellow. Sing it with me people in the tune of Elton John, “Goodbye yellow gross paint.”

Setback 3: The hardware

The final setback I’ve had is the cabinet hardware. I wanted cup pulls for the drawers. I wanted them to be pretty simple without a flange or other details, and I wanted a chrome finish. I had ordered these pulls from Home Depot.

Chrome cup pull

A week or so after I placed the order, I got a call from HD that they couldn’t get anyone at the manufacturer to answer email or the phone.

I looked at other big box stores and couldn’t find what I was looking for. HD had offered me a refund, but it took me awhile to make it into the store. By the time I was standing in front of the customer service desk, the associate let me know they’d started receiving orders again from the company. If you read my post on Friday, this is when I heard, “I’ll give you the refund, but let’s try and place the order again. I won’t charge you even if it goes through.”

How awesome is that?

A few days later I came home to a message from HD. My order went through (yay!), but the pulls are on back order (boo!). They should be here by Nov. 10. That’s just nearing the end of the One Room Challenge. I think I should be able to get them on in time for the final reveal.

The moral of the story

So, setbacks aside, the challenge rolls on. The best thing about this challenge is how encouraging everyone is. It’s been amazing to connect with other bloggers and have so many new people stop by my blog and offer their comments. Seeing everyone else’s projects is also super inspiring.

Make sure you get a chance to visit Calling it Home and see all of the works in progress.

Happy Thanksgiving

Hey y’all. Baxter here.

Julia and Matt decided to take Thanksgiving off. So, with them turkey-digesting and one-room-challenging, it’s been left to me–the dude without any thumbs–to handle today’s post.

Even though I’m a Canadog now, it seems weird to be celebrating Thanksgiving in October. But there’s some perks to the weekend.

Road tripping (I’m a very good backseat driver).

Back seat driver

Dog parking (I’ve been to a dog beach, but never a dog park with a dog beach).

Baxter wading in the water

Y’all want to know what else was special about this dog park? It wasn’t just for dogs. Although this guy wasn’t really into playing. I walked around his tree five times and did a special dance. I finally got so frustrated I just gave up and barked at him. That’s when Julia told me I had to leave him alone.

Baxter investigating a racoon in a hollow tree

There were three special dinnering (two were turkeys and one was the bird of my homeland).

Baxter posing with the KFC bucket

So that’s how I spent the Canadian Thanksgiving. If you’ll excuse me, I have some turkey and chicken and squash to sleep off now.

Hope y’all had a good weekend. Did you do anything special? Or make any new friends? Or eat any good foods? For those other Canadians and Canadogs out there Happy Thanksgiving.

Don’t ever give up

This was a different post when I wrote it in my head the first time on my drive home from work on Tuesday evening. By the time I turned into my driveway it was this post you see before you.

Work kicked my butt on Tuesday. I made a couple of really big mistakes on an important project I’m responsible for. I said some really bad swear words and came close to shedding a few tears. It was a low point.

Then on the way home, I stopped at Home Depot. I was getting a refund on a special order they hadn’t been able to find for me. The associate said, “I’ll give you the refund, but let’s try and place the order again. I won’t charge you even if it goes through.”

Back on the road, there was a back up of cars and lots of flashing lights at the roundabout I drive through every day. As I came around the curve, I saw a bad accident with a dump truck.

And this is why my attitude had changed by the time I made it home. I had a bad day at work. That’s all it was. There were other good things that happened to me, and things could have been a lot worse.

I will still recite my mantra of “Be the duck. Be the duck.” (You know, feet paddling madly under the water but feathers smooth and unruffled above).

However, what started to play a little more loudly in my head was, “Don’t ever give up.” In fact, this mantra inspired me to dig into the boxes in my office and pull out this poster.

Don't ever give up

This hung in the office at my middle school. When I was in grade 8 I finally worked up the courage to ask one of the teachers to photocopy it for me. It’s hung on a bulletin over my various desks ever since then.

Obviously, it’s been packed away too long. It’s now back up on the bulletin board in my office here.

How was your week? Hopefully it was better than mine. Let’s all have a good weekend, okay?

How to build your own shaker cabinets

It’s time for the first progress report in my One Room Challenge laundry room makeover.

One Room Challenge

Today’s update focuses on the most striking transformation in the laundry room: the cabinets.

You saw in the first post that the laundry room cabinets are basic flat doors. You also saw that my inspiration was a shaker style.

Laundry room before and inspiration

Fortunately, transforming flat doors into shaker doors is a pretty easy process. However, there was one door and one drawer that weren’t basic flat panels. I don’t know what this style is called officially, but I believe it was popular in the nineties. The distinctive feature of these cabinets was a built in wood stained “handle” along the edge of the white melamine flat door or drawer. Look familiar?

90s style cabinet

Before I could shaker-fy these cabinets, I needed to get rid of the ridge part of the handle. I enlisted my new-to-me, but extremely old table saw. I set the fence and the blade at the precise width and height I needed to slice off the handle, and then I very carefully ran the door and the drawer through the saw.

Trimming the edge off a cabinet door

Once the handle was removed, I could work with these cabinets exactly like the rest of the ones in the laundry room.

Using my table saw again, my Dad and I cut 2 inch wide strips out of a sheet of hardboard that I had left over from my bookshelf project. I then affixed the strips to the cabinets to make the raised shaker detail.

Easy peasy.

Adding shaker trim to cabinet doors

I used a smear of carpenters glue on the back of the strips and then I tacked them in place with my Dad’s nail gun. A bit of wood filler evened out the joints and an all over sanding smoothed everything out. I chose to have the vertical pieces run edge to edge on the drawers and doors, and then the horizontals ran between the two vertical strips.

For the drawer and the door that I’d trimmed earlier, the shaker strips covered most of the original handle. At the edges a good daub of wood filler took care of the hole. Here’s a sneak peek of how they look after painting. Not perfect, but good enough for me.

Adding shake style trim to cabinets

Anyways, before I get too far ahead of myself, how about a few more details on the painting? After I painted the kitchen cabinets at our first house, I swore I’d never do it again. Maybe my tolerance for DIY has improved because painting these cabinets was much less torturous.

A few things were different this time around.

  1. After priming I used the Advance paint formula from Benjamin Moore as opposed to a stinky heavy duty oil paint. I’ve been super impressed by the finish I get from Advance, and clean up is a breeze.
  2. I painted just the fronts of the doors. Sure it’s a shortcut, but I didn’t feel the need to flip them over and paint the insides too.
  3. I split the painting into two stages because I chose two different colours. The uppers and two blocks of lower cabinets are all BM Cloud White (the same colour as we’ve used on the trim elsewhere in the house). The lowers on the sink section are BM Wrought Iron (the same colour as Matt’s bathroom). One coat of one colour took just 30-45 minutes–much better than the week of 16 hour days I spent in our last kitchen.

As soon as the drawers and doors were dry, I put them all back in place.

Laundry room cabinet makeover

The room may still need to be painted, cleaned and decorated, but it’s already looking 100 times better. Since installing the doors and drawers, I’ve found myself making special trips downstairs to the laundry room just to admire the cabinets.

That’s not weird, is it?

This is a super cheap, easy way to makeover basic cabinets. I highly recommend it.

And because this is a progress report, here’s where the rest of the makeover stands:

  1. Add shaker style trim to the cabinets
  2. Paint the cabinets
  3. Install doors and drawers
  4. Remove ceiling rack – By Oct. 3
  5. Patch ceiling and walls – By Oct. 3
  6. Prime walls and paint ceiling – By Oct. 10
  7. Paint and install baseboard and paint window trim – By Oct. 10
  8. Deep clean (sink, counter, floor, machines) – Oct. 13 (Happy Thanksgiving Monday!)
  9. Paint walls – By Oct. 17
  10. Level washing machine – By Oct. 19
  11. Build and install ceiling rack – By Oct. 24
  12. Build and install towel bar – By Oct. 24
  13. Install cabinet hardware – By Oct. 24
  14. Build and install light fixture – By Oct. 26
  15. Decorate – By Oct. 31

I knocked off steps 4 and 5 in the past week, but added one new step (#10). I don’t know how I forgot that the washing machine shakes like it’s going to take flight every time it goes into the spin cycle. We have to fix that.

So week one of the One Room Challenge is over. Five (or hopefully less) to go. If you haven’t had a chance, I highly recommend checking out the link-ups on Calling it Home. The 20 participating bloggers post on Wednesday and then the linking participants (like me) share our progress on Thursday. There’s an impressive range of projects and lots of inspiration. Exactly what this challenge is all about.

Have you ever made over cabinets with trim or another add-on? How about painting cabinets? Have you ever taken on that fun task? What’s your favourite cabinet style? Anyone know what that nineties built-in handle style is called?

Smokey Hollow

This year’s birthday present is one of the most special gifts I’ve ever been given. Matt, my family and his parents all went in together to buy me a painting.

Smokey Hollow

The painting is of a waterfall in the town where I grew up.

I hiked the trails around this waterfall and waded in this creek so many times. The waterfall doesn’t really have a name, but the whole gorge around it is called Smokey Hollow (which is also the name of the painting). I’ve heard a couple of explanations for the name Smokey Hollow. One is the mist from the waterfall made the hollow “smokey.” The second is literal smoke which came from all of the mills that used to be throughout the valley. In fact, the creek that runs over this waterfall is called Grindstone Creek.

Wherever the name came from, this is a beautiful spot that’s very special to me, and to have it memorialized in a painting was something that I couldn’t resist.

This was painted by a local artist named Brian Darcy. He paints nature and farms and the countryside. I could buy pretty much every one of his paintings.

This particular painting, I’ve wanted since I was in high school. It means so much that my family came together to give this to me.

Since we painted the living room and set up the bookcases on the opposite side of the room, we had a perfect wall for it.

Smokey Hollow by Brian Darcy

Matt made all of the arrangements to buy the painting, but what made this extra special was that we actually got to meet Brian. We saw some of his works in progress and learned about his painting process and heard some of the story behind the Smokey Hollow painting.

He even gave us copies of a little study he did from the painting. Down in the bottom right corner on the shore of the creek, there’s a little cluster of pink wildflowers. Flitting around the flowers is a Swallowtail butterfly. Well, Brian took that scene and did a separate small little painting.

Summer fields by Brian Darcy

My family has known for a long time that I wanted this painting. Last year, my Mom went down to Smokey Hollow and took a picture for me. She had it printed and framed and gave it to me for my last birthday.

Smokey Hollow photo

I still need to find the perfect place to hang this one. Since Smokey Hollow is such a special spot for me, I think I’m allowed to have two pictures of it.

Anyone else have a story of finally getting something you’ve waited a long time have? Do you have any mementos of where you grew up? Even though this was a gift, this is Matt’s and my first time spending any significant amount of money on art. I have to say I’m feeling pretty grown up about it. Have you invested in art?

One room challenge – Laundry room makeover

I am so excited for October’s project. Remember back in September when I didn’t have a project on my to-do list and I took apart the laundry room? Well now it’s time to put it back together.

I’m even more excited for this makeover because I’m going to make the laundry room my part of the One Room Challenge.

One Room Challenge

Linda at Calling it Home created the ORC three years ago as a way to help people stay on track and finish a room. Over the next six weeks, a group of bloggers and a whole bunch of joiners like me will be making over one room. We’ll be posting weekly updates on our blogs. So it’s not all that different from how I’ve handled my other projects so far this year.

Now, I will admit that I’ve gotten a little bit of a head start on this challenge. I trimmed out the cabinet doors and painted them last month.

I wanted to complete the makeover in October, but I knew two weekends this month were booked for non-DIY activities. As a DIYer with a day job, I absolutely need my weekends if I’m going to finish this in one month.

Well, it turns out that the ORC gives me six weeks. So I’ll have a bit of a cushion.

The purpose of today’s post is to introduce my room and tell you my plan.

Everyone, meet the laundry room. Laundry room, meet everyone.

Laundry room before

Here’s the part where the laundry room tells you a little bit about himself. We are very fortunate that we have a great space to start from (and yes, I took these photos after the makeover had already started–bad blogger). There is lots of counter space and built-in cabinets. We have a utility sink and our new (okay two-year-old) front loading washer and dryer. Even though we’re in the basement, we have a nice large window.

Laundry room before


Now we redid the basement when we first moved to the farm. However, the makeover pretty much stopped at the edge of the laundry room. I scraped the stipple ceiling, took down the fluorescent light fixture, removed some posters that had been tacked to the front of the cabinets (why?) and that was it. Oh, except for our new washer and dryer (love you babies).

Since the room is open to the rest of the basement, I’d really like it to be as pretty as the rest of the basement. And right now, it’s not.

Laundry room before

So this makeover is purely aesthetic, and I’m working with what is there in the laundry room already.

Here’s the vision:

And here’s the plan:

  1. Add shaker style trim to the cabinets
  2. Paint the cabinets
  3. Install doors and drawers
  4. Remove ceiling rack – By Oct. 3
  5. Patch ceiling and walls – By Oct. 3
  6. Prime walls and paint ceiling – By Oct. 10
  7. Paint and install baseboard and paint window trim – By Oct. 10
  8. Deep clean (sink, counter, floor, machines) – Oct. 13 (Happy Thanksgiving Monday!)
  9. Paint walls – By Oct. 17
  10. Build and install ceiling rack – By Oct. 24
  11. Build and install towel bar – By Oct. 24
  12. Install cabinet hardware – By Oct. 24
  13. Build and install light fixture – By Oct. 26
  14. Decorate – By Oct. 31

Fourteen easy steps to laundry room bliss. Simple right?

Is anyone else doing the One Room Challenge? Do you find pretty laundry rooms as exciting as I do?

Bringing back the books

I didn’t really have project this month, but I did say that I wanted my books back. That meant finishing the bookshelf makeover that I started in August.

You might recall that in my original photo you could barely see the bookshelves because they were painted such a dark brown (oh, and hidden behind boxes that have been packed for two and a half years).

Bookshelves and boxes of books

Well, not anymore. Behold the view from the same angle.

Living room bookshelves

Bright and white and, best of all, filled with books. Hello beloveds.

The bookshelves wrap the one corner of the living room and tuck behind the comfy lounging chair that I inherited from my grandmother.

Corner bookshelves

I’m pretty happy with how things have come together. I know a lot of people struggle with styling bookshelves, and I’m no different. I’m decently satisfied with the middle section right now.

As always, the contents of the shelves have a lot of meaning for us. Besides the books we have some very special treasures.

The trophy is Matt’s grandma’s won for a school running race in 1935 when she was in high school, my dad made the small lidded wood pot on his lathe, and the hammer on the top right was a gift from my grandmother to Matt and unscrews to reveal decreasing sizes of screwdrivers. Towards the bottom, we have a brick I found in the backyard of our first house that has our city’s name stamped on it. Below that there’s a picture of Matt and me at Niagara Falls back when we first started dating, and beside that a miniature replica of Rodin’s The Kiss. (Rodin is our favourite sculptor. A miniature of The Thinker is on an adjacent shelf). The half naked man (or more accurately naked half man) was a high school art class project.


I want to tuck a few more knick knacks in some of the empty spaces, and I definitely need to get some bookends. I’ll continue to futz with the arrangement, but regardless of what things look like, I’m thrilled to have my books back.

Perhaps it’s because I had bookshelves on the brain, but as I was pulling my shelves together they seemed to be popping up on other blogs as well:

I cannot explain how thrilling it is to have my books back. I came across a few I’d forgotten I had and of course lots of old favourites. In fact the borrowed book that I was half-way through may have been set aside in favour of an old favourite. (I never do that. I’m always a one-book-at-a-time woman).

Plus, setting up the bookshelves gave us an excuse to paint some more of the living room and unpack about 16 boxes that had been piled in the corner. The room feels so much more finished! … Well, we’re still a long way from finished. At least it’s a little bit closer to the vision in my head.

How do you handle book storage at your house? Besides books, what’s on your bookshelves? Any tips on styling bookshelves? Who else is a one-book-at-a-time reader?