Like so many of you this winter, we’ve had a few incredibly cold days over the last little while. The nights have been even worse. Last Friday, shortly after the post about the birds that have been visiting our feeder was published, I saw a new bird for the first time–a little owl.

Unfortunately, the sighting was a sad one. The cold had been too much for this little guy. He was dead.


He was a beautiful, fascinating creature–his multi-toned feathers, his pointy ears, his curved beak. I wish I’d been able to see him alive. I’ve heard owls around the farm, but I’ve never seen one.


I was surprised how small he was. His feathers were so fluffy that they deceived me into thinking he was much bigger than I realized. However, under his feathers, he was truly a very little guy. No wonder the cold was too much for him.

How to clean a stainless steel sink

Whoever coined the term “stainless steel” was stretching a wee bit, in my humble opinion. Or else he never lived in the country. Here at the farm, where our water flows through a chemistry set before it ever reaches the taps, stainless steel is definitely not stainless.

Behold the laundry room sink.

How to clean a stainless steel sink (before)

Now, I will admit that I wash more paintbrushes than laundry in this sink. However, beyond the paint spatters, there are watermarks, film and just a general dullness.

In my sparkly new laundry room, this would not do.

I tried various methods to clean it.

Every cleanser I own. Nope.

Every cleanser I own with lotsa, lotsa elbow grease. Nope.

Pinterest remedies like a vinegar-soaked paper towel wrap. Nope.

How to clean a stainless steel sink

Nothing could break through the dullness and bring back the shine.

Then, about a year ago, I saw a tweet from Jordana at White Cabana mentioning Universal Stone. I bought it mainly for my silver, which it polished fairly well. However, as I read the back of the container, one phrase jumped out at me: “stainless steel.”

Might as well give it a try.

Using Universal Stone to clean a stainless steel sink

Gentle readers, the clouds parted, the seas calmed, the heavens shone… and so did my sink. There’s even a reflection!

How to clean a stainless steel sink

Turns out my so-called “stainless” steel sink had some kind of tarnish on it.

How to clean a stainless steel sink

It still took lotsa elbow grease, and the finish still isn’t perfect, but it’s a heckuva lot better than it was before. Oh, and I still don’t believe in stainless steel.

Do you believe in stainless steel? Any cleaning tips to share? Who else washes more paint brushes than laundry?

And a disclaimer: The Universal Stone people have no idea who I am. I bought my own Universal Stone with my own money.

Conversations on a snowy Saturday afternoon

“Jul, it’s me. I’m at the corner in front of your place. I slid off the road. I think I can get it out with the four-wheel drive. Can you come down and direct me?” So said my youngest sister when the phone rang on Saturday afternoon.

Me to Matt as we walked down the road: “There’s no way we’re getting that out.”

Pick up truck stuck in the ditch

Me to the farmer who rents our fields: “Will, it’s Julia from down at the corner. My sister went into the ditch in front of our place. Can you come pull her out?”

His response is garbled, as I can hear he’s already on the move: “The corner? Ditch? Tow? I’ll be right there.”

Numerous drivers, including a patrolling cop: “Is everyone okay?”

The guy at the wheel of a passing snowplow: “I can pull you out.”

Me to the farmer: “Will, it’s Julia. There’s a snowplow here. He’s going to pull her out. Thanks.”

Guy who stopped to help: “What happened? Did you take the turn too fast?”

Matt (offended): “It wasn’t me! It’s my sister-in-law.”

The snowplow driver to my sister: “Put it in neutral and don’t touch anything.”

The motorist who had pulled over to help just happened to know the snowplow driver, so he hooked up the chains to connect my sister’s truck to the back of the plow. Another motorist put on his four-ways and turned his van sideways to block the road.

Snowplow pulling a pick-up truck out of the ditch

With a creak and a shimmy the snowplow pulled the truck up the bank and back onto the road. The chains were unhooked, everyone got into their cars and continued on their way through the snow.

It was a nice example of how helpful people can be.

Birds of the farm

Our bird feeder has been very busy this winter. Chickadees are still our most frequent visitors, but our flock has diversified quite a bit.

I spent some time hanging out the dining room window with my camera, trying to get some (not very good) pictures of our birds. It turned out that I was just in time for the Great Backyard Bird Count. The count happens over four days every February, and the goal is to collect data on wild birds to get an idea of where and how many birds there are.

Here’s a few snapshots of our little flock:

Male cardinal

Male cardinal at the bird feeder

Female cardinal

Female cardinal at the bird feeder

Blue jays


I think this fellow might be a junco


Woodpecker. I think this is a red-bellied woodpecker, but we also have a pure black and white one that visits every so often.


Woodpecker facing off with the male cardinal


For some reason, there’s an understanding among the birds that the feeder is a one bird at a time operation. The woodpecker is our most skittish bird, but he swooped in while the cardinal was still in the feeder. I swear I heard the cardinal hiss at woodie as he hopped to the roof of the feeder.

Do you have a bird feeder at your house? Who are the members of your flock? Anyone know whether I’m correct in my identification of the junco and woodpecker?

Here are the plans to build our simple bird feeder.

Lighting fail

Have you seen the Barometer light from Ikea?

Ikea barometer floor lamp

I love its traditional form. I really wanted it for the basement. In fact, I wanted it so badly that I braved Ikea on Dec. 27 to buy it.

Ikea during Boxing Week. Oy vey.

We have a corner at the one end of the couch that needs a lamp. When we set up the basement, Matt put an old round wooden crate from his grandfather as an end table and stuck one of our garage sale brass lamps on top.

Wooden cheese crate as a low end table

I love the crate, but the lamp has always bugged me. The table’s short, so the shade sits right at the arm of the couch. The metal in the rest of the basement is shiny chrome or closer to oil-rubbed bronze. The brass just doesn’t work.

Unfortunately, the Barometer doesn’t work either.

Ikea Barometer light

I mean, it’s pretty. The silver finish works. The height works… kind of. It’s a good task light if I was going to be sewing or reading in that corner of the couch. However, my usual activity when sitting on the couch is watching TV. We need a lamp that sheds just a bit of light so the basement isn’t lit solely by the glow of the TV.

The light that the Barometer sheds is closer to an interrogation. Just looking at this picture hurts my eyes.

Ikea Barometer light

We tipped down the shade, slid the light farther away from the couch, adjusted the arm. We just couldn’t make it work. No matter where we sat, we were squinting from the Barometer’s glare. :(

So back to Ikea I went, this time to brave the returns desk. That’s nearly as much fun as shopping on Boxing Day + 1.

And it’s back to the drawing board on the basement lamp. Honestly, I think Matt had the right idea. As wonky as the low lamp looks, it gives the light we’re looking for. Now just to find something better than the brass.

First snowshoe of the year

Today is a holiday in Ontario. While I’m taking the day off, Baxter’s covering the blog.

Since coming from Kentucky, I’ve learned that fresh snow is fun for bounding and sniffing.


But trail-blazing is hard work, especially with four legs to push through the snow.


Lesson for other puppies out there: When y’all get tired of bounding, it’s okay to follow the footprints.


Another lesson for other puppies: If snowshoes are involved, don’t follow too close. Snowshoes have tails that are easy to step on–or that can whack you in the chin if you’re not careful.

Snowshoeing with Baxter

Anyone know if snowshoes come in doggy size?


I’ve had a post sitting in my draft folder since December. Back when we were deep in the fireplace redo, I wanted to think about something prettier. So I wrote about styling the mantel. In that post, I listed some of the things I was thinking of for decor.

At the top of the list was something living (or more likely, given my luck with plants, a decent replica of a living thing).

Well, it turns out that I may not be able to keep plants alive when I want to, but the mantel is taking care of the something living all on its own.

In the joint between the two barn beams, a little plant has sprouted. I thought it was just a cobweb, so I “picked” it before I realized what it was.

Plant growing out of a mantel

The barn beams had been laying outside for who knows how long. There are some worm holes, some soft spots and, obviously, some seeds. The indoor climate is apparently just what this little sprout was looking for.

Not quite what I had in mind when it came to mantel decor, though.

Grandma’s chair

I’ve mentioned before that I have a bit of a thing for chairs. Meet the newest addition to my collection.

Step chair

I don’t know what the proper name is for this type of chair. It’s kind of bar or counter height, and it has a little step ladder attached. I’ve been looking for a chair like this for awhile.

My grandmother had one in her kitchen. Honestly, growing up it never made that big of an impression on me, but when I got my own house, I thought, “Hey, that step-stool chair would be kind of neat in a library.”

When my grandma’s house was sold, the chair ended up going to another family member. I’m not heartbroken about that, but I’m glad I’ve been able to find a chair of my own.

This one could use a little bit of work. Obviously some new upholstery would be helpful. The rubber feet need to be replaced. There’s a little bit of rust that either needs to be sanded off or painted over.

It’s still a nice memory of my grandmother, and I’m happy to add it to my collection.

Tractor tag team

We had a snow day last Monday. A free day. Such a luxury.

Another luxury? Not having to shovel our own snow.

Wiley has his snowblower, but he wasn’t feelin’ it last week. Fortunately, on days when we get a big snowfall our farmer usually comes by to plow us out.

Now I love our little tractor, but I’ve learned that I have an appreciation for true heavy equipment. Any time our farmer comes by is an opportunity to admire a new tractor. On our snow day, it was a huge double-bladed grader.

Grader plowing the driveway

This thing made quick work of the snow. Quick that is until it tried the bend at the end of the turnaround.

Grader stuck in the snow

The curve is deceptively tight and there was an icy layer under the snow. The grader ended up stuck. (No tractors or hydro poles were harmed in the plowing of this driveway).

Grader stuck in the snow

No worries though. This was just an opportunity to admire another tractor. Mr. Front End Loader pushed Mr. Double-Bladed Grader back into alignment, and then FEL finished off the driveway for us.

As of yesterday morning, Wiley is running again. He tidied up the top of the driveway and then pushed back the snowbanks at the bottom of the driveway. We’re all set for the next snow day. There’s another coming, right?

Have you had a snow day yet? How do you handle shoveling at your house?

Add just a shade of grey

I absolutely did not know what colour I wanted to paint the master bedroom. Something light and soothing? Maybe a shade of green or grey? Was this my moment to finally just go with white?

If you take a look at my master bedroom Pinterest board, you’ll see I was all over the map.

When I finally settled on navy blue, it was a snap decision. There was no sampling, no questioning, not even a paint chip. I walked into the hardware store and asked for a can of Hale Navy.

I’d seen it on a couple of other blogs. I liked all of the rooms I’d seen it in. Might as well give it a try.

But when I opened the can, I wasn’t sure. It looked so grey! I thought I’d chosen blue!

Now that the room is painted, I couldn’t be happier with the colour, and I’ve learned an important lesson. Whatever colour you’re thinking of, go a little bit grey.

This insight isn’t anything new. Young House Love did a great post a couple of years ago showing how the colour you envision might not turn out the way you think it will once it’s on your walls.

However, experiencing it myself in front of my own eyes was different than reading about it on my computer screen. I’m going to share my lesson on your computer screen nonetheless.

Here’s the Hale Navy chip from Benjamin Moore’s website. Very grey to my eye.

Benjamin Moore Hale Navy

Here’s the paint on my brush. Still very grey in my opinion.

Benjamin Moore Hale Navy

And here’s the paint on the wall. Thanks to natural light and the vagaries of photography, this looks very blue. (Ignore the random furniture. We haven’t set up the room yet, so we’ve just stuffed some of the guest room furniture back in the room. Although I do love how the wood desk pops against the blue).

Benjamin Moore Hale Navy

Here’s the paint up against the bright white trim. This is a bit truer to how Hale Navy looks IRL.

Benjamin Moore Hale Navy

We’re plodding along ever so slowly on our master bedroom makeover. With my promise to be more flexible this year, I haven’t set any deadlines for myself. But that means we’re still a little ways away from moving into our new room. Here’s where we’re at:

  • Buy a new bed
  • Remove popcorn ceiling
  • Patch ceiling and walls
  • Paint ceiling, trim and walls
  • DIY a headboard
  • Relocate light switch
  • Replace light fixture
  • Make/find window treatments – In progress
  • Paint dresser and replace hardware
  • Refresh dinged up closet doors
  • Decorate and personalize

Do you have any projects on the go right now? How are you doing on your 2015 to-do list? Do you have any tried and true strategies for picking paint colours?