Monthly Archives: July 2011

Yard Sale

Like all normal families, we accumulate a lot of junk.  And by junk I do not mean cool rusted buckets and wheels and antique furniture.  I mean actual junk that no one in their right mind wants to keep in their house.  Plastic dish sets.  Outgrown golf shoes and hockey equipment.  Ugly lamps.  Stuff from the 80s.  That kind of thing.

When we moved from our little mobile home into our house, we tried to not bring it all with us.  We organized.  We culled.  We were ruthless.

And then we moved it all into my parent’s basement until….the garage sale.

Said garage sale was supposed to have happened BEFORE we moved.  But, with rushing to finish the house and get in before my school year started (didn’t happen, BTW), the garage sale got put on the back burner.

My poor parents had the dubious honor of housing all of our cast-offs and junk we managed to gather for the eleven years we lived in the trailer.  You know.  The sorts of things that you accumulate and can’t really deal with because you don’t have room for it, so it gets boxed up and put somewhere where you can’t see it.  Perfect.  It took up most of their unfinished basement….

Except, if it has been in a box in a basement for eleven years, chances are you don’t really need it anymore.  Or, perhaps, want it (buh-bye early 90s decor).

Anyway, this garage sale had been looming over us for a while before it actually happened.  We bit the bullet and decided on a weekend at the beginning the June- sort of the beginning of yard sale season here in Alberta.  We borrowed 10 extra long tables and set everything up in the garage in case it rained.  My mom and dad and brother also brought out all of their junk as well.  We got change.  We made signs.  We put up balloons.  It was all very strange.

The horrifying before…

The pile of boxes in the corner represents just a few of the boxed items we had to unpack for this little shindig.

The not-so-bad after

We still had to take 2 truck loads of stuff to the local Next to New and to the recycle tent at our local landfill site.  Nothing was thrown away, which is awesome.

It went pretty well.  A huge job, but well worth it.  We made enough to do a little more in terms of landscaping our yard (see Earthmoving post next week).  People were mostly very polite and pleasant.  I was surprised at the turn out.  On the Friday night, there were cars in our driveway before my dad and son had returned from putting the balloons up on the highway!  They must have been waiting there!  Yikes.  One guy did say he’d buy some tires and then did not return to pay after we saved them for him the next day (about 6 other guys wanted them…) but other than that, everything went great.

We did it.  It’s done and now I don’t have to think about it anymore.  Recycled.  Made some money for other projects.  Cleaned up and organized.

And I never want to do it again.

The House Part III

In case you have been missing out on the house building saga, you can catch up here and here.  A little bit of hitting-water-while-digging-the-basement-disaster, and then some start over and get started for real the next summer.

We are finally on our way!

After the land was prepared and the forms built and concrete poured for the foundation, it was time to start with some walls.

As you can see, we decided to build using concrete forms.  They consist of the styrofoam blocks that are stacked, joined together with rebar inside, and finally, filled with concrete to form very, very thick walls.  The styrofoam is amazing.  It sat in our yard over the summer until we were ready to start, and, even on the hottest days in full sun, it would feel cool to the touch.  When it got cold, the styrofoam felt warm.  It is an amazing insulator, and these walls give you the best insulating factor for your home.

They used the braces to keep everything together until the concrete gets poured.  The blocks go up quickly, but it is a lot of rebar to cut and bend.

Kind of like giant Lego, hey?

We then had to build the joists for the first floor after the first pour of concrete was put in for our crawlspace.

The hole is for the crawl space steps where the furnace room will be.  The back without subfloor is the golf room where, one day, we hope to put a golf simulator (my husband is crazy for golf and, let’s be honest, our season isn’t very long here) and on the right is the garage.

Here you can see the first floor up with the windows and doors.  That’s one thing with using the concrete forms- you realllllly have to be sure where your windows are going.  Ten inches of concrete is not going to be easy to get through, or fill, if you change your mind. See the snow on the ground while there are still leaves on the trees?  Welcome to September!  Another great thing about the forms is that it doesn’t matter if they get wet.

Here’s the inside view with all of the supports.

Next week, the second floor makes an appearance, as does the roof.

Red Chalk Paint Pantry Door

I am notorious for forgetting things.  I have lists and scraps of paper and stickies on my computer screen.  I have notes on my iPhone.  I have numerous coil journals.

I still forget what I’m doing a lot of the time sometimes.  Who has time to do things twice?  Or more?

And, to top it all off, I. hate. running. errands.  My husband is the one who will, cheerfully, at any given moment, run uptown for whatever it is we need.  I pout if I have to go to the grocery store.  Even more for the bank, etc.  You get the idea.

So I knew when we moved into our house that I wanted a chalkboard in the kitchen to help keep track of things we needed.  We live in a small town and it is an hour from the nearest Costco, so we have to somehow keep track of things we need for the city trips, too.

Welcome to the pantry.  Before shot.

Pantry door- meet my friend, Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint.  In Primer Red.

First coat.  Yikes!

After the second coat.

It was still a little bit blotchy, so I did a third coat and took off the tape.  Seasoned it with a bit of chalk and added my cute ‘groceries’ sign and that’s it!  Lots of room to write things down (as they are emptied from the pantry) and for multiple lists going at once.  I love it!

To do this project, you just need:

-something to paint to become your chalkboard

-painter’s tape/ drop cloth

-chalk paint or chalkboard paint

-paint brush

I am linking up to Blue Cricket Design‘s Show and Tell Party and Boost My Blog Friday.

Tutorials and Tips Link Party at Home Stories A to Z.

Rustic Red

This is my post on colour so that I can join the fabulous Ashley at The Handmade Home for her linky party!  She is one of my must reads on a daily basis.  I love her style and her voice.  So funny.  Her voice.  Not her style.  Her style is gorgeous.

I think that geography can have a lot to do with colour choice- it has for me, at least.  I love, love, love all of the beachy and French styles with the blues, but, well… we live in a forest.  This is the view from one of my living room windows.

Beautiful?  Yes.  Calming?  Yes.  Wild?  Yes.  Beachy?  Not so much.

Colour, in our case, also has cultural significance and meaning to our family as my husband and our son are Aboriginal.  These are my husband’s fancy dance bustles and our son’s little traditional bustle (that he sadly no longer fits…sniff).

I know what you are thinking.  Red?  Really?  I agree!  I am usually a little reserved with my choices for our home (bad painting experiences, man), and sometimes I can’t believe that there is so much of it here.  This is how my love affair with red first started.  I bought this loveseat and the matching couch 15 years ago.  See the line of red throughout?  This is where I was first inspired to use red as an accent colour in our home.  I love these couches.  When the material wears through, I am going to have them recovered.  You can bet I will be asking all kinds of advice on what fabric to choose for that little project!

I think the effect is subtle- considering the pattern on the couch and the strength of the colour.  It is pretty well tempered by the neutral wall colour and the barn board floors.

Some of the living room accents are:  my great-grandmother’s chair (recovered) with a gorgeous Pendleton blanket fragment over it (waiting to be made into a pillow),

a beautiful Jeff Daychief print with red border (sorry about the poor quality pic- is it Christmas yet? is my new camera here, yet?),

and an original painted by our son (he used his Ted Harrison books as his inspiration).

Finally, we have the light over the table- a beautiful Tiffany with lots of orangey -red goodness in it.  Guess what colour that front door sitting behind it is going to be (as soon as I get brave enough….any tips on painting a fiberglass front door)?

The kitchen is open to the living room and is, again, quite neutral in terms of counters, cupboards, backsplash and wall colour.  So the red accents are a nice little pop of colour.  You can see I have a red clock, red pendants over the island, and rugs with a red stripe.

Remember that blanket draped on the back of the chair?  It used to be bigger.  I made a little wall organizer out of some of it for our office area by the back door.  It is adjacent to the kitchen/ living room area, so it needed to be art-like.  And by art-like, I mean covered with tiny scraps of paper that my husband and son like to collect with random numbers on them.  It never, ever, looks like this.  Just saying.

It also goes nicely with the Ikea runner I bought 12 years ago that is like brand new.  Amazing Ikea.

Now for a little hidden red.  You all know Annie Sloan and her amazing paint, right?  Guess which colour of hers I love (well, one of them)?

I decided to take some of this and make a chalkboard on the inside of my pantry door.

And while I was at it, I also painted a dresser.  Here it is in our closet with another Jeff Daychief print.  We are very lucky to live by some really talented artists.

Upstairs is where I got brave and decided to use red as something a little more than an accent.  I have always loved red walls in certain rooms.  Can I introduce you to my library?

This picture is a little dark.  The colour on the walls is called Canuck Red by General Paints.  Here’s a little lighter shot.

Ok.  So now in this one it is a little overexposed (still no camera?) but the colour is fairly true on the right and towards the top of this picture.  Also note my lovely red pendants.  Yes.  I have 4 red pendants in my house.  I love how the red peeks out from behind the books and around the shelves.

I do enjoy my red.  But, I keep thinking about that blue…. you know, I have a lot of blue artwork just waiting to be put up on a wall.  We are in the process of building an art ledge to put these on.  It will line one of our upstairs hallways.

So far, I am pretty happy with the way that colour has been working in our home.  I like a kind of strange combination of calm and neutral with quite warm and rustic.  Still working on it.  We just moved into our new house a year ago, and there are still a lot of blank walls and areas that need filling and working on.

For example, I have a craft room/ spare bedroom that is virtually a blank slate… and I keep thinking about that lovely turquoise/ red colour combo some talented ladies have been using in their home…hmmmm.

And I’ll let you know about that door.

Perfect Summer Day

Yesterday was one of those rare days here in the Alberta foothills where you wake up to sunshine (that’s not the unusual part- that happens all the time) and then the sky stays clear.  All.  Day.  Long.  That is unusual.  Our normal pattern is for the clouds to start rolling in right after lunch.  Just after you have made it to the lake.  The kids will be playing.  The cooler is stocked.  Then the wind will kick up.  Blankets and towels will start to blow away.  Everytime a cloud passes under the sun it drops 10 degrees.  Sand gets in your lunch.

But not this day.  It was perfect.  It started hot.  It stayed hot.

This is how it went.

I love to read the newspaper.  It is a treat for me.  Who has the time during a normal workday to read a whole newspaper?  But to read one outside?  With coffee and a bagel?  In the sun?  Heaven.  I bought two!!  Please ignore the landscaping in progress behind the chair.  You can see that I positioned it so that I can.

No.  The dog did not fetch the paper for me.  We live out of town or I’m sure she would have.

After an hour or so of newspaper bliss, we decided to head to our little pond with the dinghy.  Here we are boating around.

Yes.  My son loves Nickelback.  We were the coolest parents in the world last year when we took him to the concert.

There is a little island on the pond.  So pretty.

Then our faithful little dog swam out to meet us.  She needed rescuing.  Yes.  We are buying lifejackets that fit tomorrow.  Including for the dog!!

What better way to finish off the perfect summer day than with a wiener roast?  And a menu written on a rock with a burnt stick.  We are very fancy here in case you haven’t noticed yet…  One of these posts I will give the recipe for Calico Beans.  You will be thanking me for evah!

Our amazing fire pit.  It’s actually the cone out of a gravel crusher.

I feel relaxed and happy.  I am grateful for perfect, special summer days like this.


Primer Red Dresser

As soon as I started reading about Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint online, I was excited.  I’ve painted many things in my life, and, a lot of the time, it is hard!  A lot of stripping, and sanding, and priming.  By the time you were finished with that, you didn’t feel like painting anymore.

So I love that with this paint you can just, well, paint!

The only issue was the price, but I came up with a solution for that.  I asked my husband and son to get me some chalk paint and wax for Mother’s Day.  I thought that if I could refinish a number of pieces of furniture with it, then it was money well spent- and I’m kind of a house nerd and just love doing little projects- a win-win situation, really.  And we had a lot of projects for the new house…  I chose Old White, Country Grey, and Primer Red along with the dark and clear wax and the brush.

I was so pumped when it arrived!

I was not, however, so pumped when this arrived.

My husband had made a trip to his parent’s house.  I believe it was to take them some of their stuff back as we had just moved and were, sort of, supposed to be, getting rid of stuff!

He came back with this.

I’m not sure that the pictures can do justice to how ugly this thing was.  “Why, oh why, did you bring it here?” I kept asking him.  Our new house?  And this dresser?  No.

He kept talking about keeping it in the garage for storage and I kept picturing it on fire until I remembered my paint!  My wonderful paint.  To the rescue.  And we did need a dresser for our closet…

So, contrary to all of my painting instincts, I just started putting on paint.  No sanding.  No priming.  Scary.

After one coat, you could still see some of the crazy “pattern” that was on the original.

The second coat took care of it completely, though.  The paint requires that you work with it quickly.  There is not a lot of time to move it around.  The nice thing about that, though, is that you can start your second coat right away after the first!

I wanted a layered look, so then I went over the red with Old White.  You can see how the second coat of red really covered the old paint or stain or whatever that awful stuff was.  In retrospect I would not have put so much white on.  Took a lot of sanding to get to see the red through it.

Finally, I waxed.  In the picture above, you can see the difference that the dark wax makes to the colour.  Again, you have to work in small areas fairly quickly to get it moved around enough.

A little of the dark and then a little of the clear.  Buffed to a shine.  Here it is finished!

I love the primitive, rustic look that it gives the dresser.  No garage for you!  And now my husband can feel a little freer to bring home other crazy bad furniture.  With this paint you can pretty much fix anything.

I love how it lets you achieve the layered look.

List of supplies:

-something to paint!

-Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Primer Red, Old White

-Annie Sloan Soft Wax in Dark

-paint brushes and wax brush



I am linking to Miss Mustard Seed’s Furniture Feature Friday, to Funky Junk Interior‘s Saturday Night Special, The Shabby Creek Cottage‘s Transformation Thursdays, Boost My Blog Friday, and Tatertots and Jello’s Weekend Wrap-Up Party.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Our New Home- Getting Started (Finally!)

Last week, I told you about our first attempt at building a new house.  The plans were hard fought over, compromises made, paperwork filed (and filed and filed) and the equipment finally showed up one fine summer day to start digging our basement.  Remember what happened?


So…we carried on (after a little breakdown/ meltdown on my part).  Decided on a new plan without basement, had the plans drawn up by our contractor, and had the land reinforced with gravel and strengthening fabric (I know- seems weird, right?).  The next summer, we were ready to try again.

Here they are packing all of the gravel down.  Our 10 year old running the packer.  Yeah.  That’s when they start running heavy machinery in these parts.

Seriously, the thing only went 2 miles an hour, and he was buckled in!

Break time!  Probably waiting for a root beer….

After the site was fully prepped, the work began on the actual house.  Which, apparently, first involved moving out a lot of junky holiday and equipment trailers (not to mention the port a potty).  Our beautiful site went from pristine to junkyard in no time at all.

Then we built forms for the concrete footings.

And then the concrete trucks showed up to fill the forms.

Please take note of the holiday trailer on the right (which affectionately became known as “The Scamper”) and the porta potty on the left.  My dad and I are out there watching them.  So exciting!  Our poor contractors- since we already lived across the yard from the house site- we were there quite a bit.  We couldn’t help it!


Our boy helping.  His job was to bang on the edges of the forms to get air out of the concrete before the top was troweled smooth.

We used ICF to build our house (the styrofoam blocks that are filled with rebar and concrete) so the concrete trucks will most definitely be back.

Stay tuned for more house building Thursdays!

Fabric Letter Tutorial

This is my tutorial on (fairly) easy wooden letters covered with fabric.  I say fairly easy because the tricky part is to get the wood cut out with the jig saw.  I leave that up to my husband.  We used a thinner plywood for these letters as they were meant to be on a wall or layered on a mantle or shelf.  If you want them to stand on their own, you should use something a little thicker.

Here goes.  You will need:

-plywood or mdf board

-a scroll saw or jig saw to cut

-template of letter or overhead

-paint and brush

-fabric and iron


-spray craft sealer (matte finish)

Start with the wood you are going to use.  I used an overhead projector in order to get the letter the size I wanted on the plywood.  Then I just traced.

After I had the letter traced onto the wood, I had it cut out (thanks, honey) and then I painted the back and sides.  No need to paint the front because I was covering it with fabric.

Notice how I am trying to be really careful with my counters?

Next, I ironed the fabric that I wanted to use.

After this step, I traced out my letter (right side up) onto the good side of the fabric (you want to make sure the good side of the fabric will go on the front of your letter).  Carefully cut the letter out.

Then I used a very thin layer of mod podge and carefully applied the fabric to the mod podge.  I only worked on a bit at a time.  That way, you can move the fabric around a bit in order to get it where you want and so it fits nicely onto your letter.  I chose a font that was a little trickier due to all of the crooked edges on it.  This was also really appreciated by the man running the jig saw, by the way.  Once it was on and had dried a bit, I put a little layer of mod podge over at as well.  This will dry clear and helps to protect the fabric.  You can use some spray sealer too at this point if you like.  Krylon has a good spray on that has a matte finish.

Here it is finished on my mantle.

Love it.  I also made some initials for my nieces for their birthdays.  Once you have your husband on the jig saw…you might as well keep him there for a while…


Update… husband just informed me that it was a scroll saw he was using- not a jigsaw.  My bad.

Sunburst Mirror

I have been drooling over all of the beautiful sunburst mirrors in all of the mags and blogs lately.

So I finally decided to attempt to make one on my own.

I started with the ugliest brown mirror in the world.  I’m not kidding.  It was the ugliest.  Evah!!  I decided to use bamboo to make the ‘sunburst’ part of my mirror.  I have seen others who use wooden shims, or even paper, to make theirs.  Whatever suits your style!

Ugliest mirror in the world

See.  I don’t exaggerate.  Are you wondering if I’m going to take the saw to it?  Nope.  Took that little saw to all of the little pieces of bamboo that you also see here.  The ruler is fake.  Well, it’s a real ruler, but I didn’t actually measure anything.  I just thought I might have the urge to.  I didn’t.

So you will need:

-one mirror

-bamboo sticks, wooden shims, or other materials for the star

-a little saw to cut your desired lengths

-a glue gun and sticks

-painter’s tape and newspaper to cover the mirror when painting

-spray paint and/or wax for your desired finish

I took my trusty hot glue gun (actually my mom’s because mine was out of glue sticks- big surprise) and glued the cut pieces on in kind of random/ precise bunches.  I didn’t measure off the mirror or anything (although I’ve seen this done).  See how the dogs are soooo enthralled with my work.  Riveting.

Here’s what it looked like when I was finished.  My hand was pretty sore from cutting all the little bamboo pieces with the little saw- I’m sure there’s a much easier way to do this…  Then I taped newspaper over the mirror so that it was ready for me to spraypaint.

After spraying it white, I went over it with Annie Sloan’s wax in rustic (using the wax brush).

Here it is drying.

After I let it dry overnight, I picked the toughest spot for my husband to hang it up.  Above our gigantic window in our stair landing.  It is a huge space and it needed something to fill it.

Originally it was going to be the absolutely gorgeous starblanket quilt that my aunt made us for our wedding… but more about that later!

Here it is (after much straining and leaning I might add).  I love how the wax just sort of really brings out the texture of the bamboo and makes it look really rustic and lovely.  I’m terribly sorry about the poor quality of photograph.  You are probably going to be reading a lot here about my quest for a good entry level dslr camera.  And then how to use it.

Just to show you how it fills this gigantic space.  Please ignore the lovely camper trailer view through the window.

I love my sunburst mirror.  And I can’t believe how it all started with that ugly brown mirror to begin with.

I’m linking to the fabulous Donna’s Saturday Nite Special on mirrors.  Thanks Donna!

Our New Home- Disaster

We lived on part of my parent’s land for about 5 years…

Our old home

before we decided we were ready to take the plunge and build.

We love it here.  It is treed and quiet and we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in this spot (and living next door to Grandma and Grandpa- only a short walk on a worn path through the trees- was a huge benefit for us as well as our son).

We started wrestling with paperwork about six (!) years ago.  It took 3 years to get the land subdivision done (something we had to do before we were allowed to build on site).  There were issues with the approach and the road (we share those with my parents) as well as other legalities and minutia and administravia that had us running for our wallets, filling out paperwork, and playing phone tag with everyone in the county!

While that fun was happening, we worked on our house plans.  We wanted something unique and special and read many books and spent many hours finding what we loved.  Many battles were staged over those plans, I tell you.  Many drawings on napkins.  Many heated discussions.  Every detail thought out.

Finally we agreed, saw the architect, had the plans drawn up, and waited for our chosen contractor to have time in his schedule.

It was so cool.  An open plan with the fireplace and stairs in the centre of the main area, bedrooms upstairs, and a cozy basement.  Rustic and woodsy and comfortable- just like us!

Do you like the spot we chose for the new house?

Here’s what it looked like after we chopped down some scrubby poplars and my brother got finished with it with the bulldozer.

When the contractor and equipment showed up- we were sooooo excited.  Years of work and effort were finally paying off.  Our son put on his little toy tool belt and headed out to help.  Angels were singing.

But do you see the grayish area at the bottom of the trench?  That’s an indicator that you are going to hit water.  And we did.  Big time.  Test holes were dug.  Pools of water filled the bottoms of them.  And our dreams for our little house with the cozy basement were dashed.  Just like that.  I had to go back into our house to cry.

Disaster.  So… there was no way we could build our house here.  Back to the drawing board for us.  Our plans were useless and we would later have to get the site tested by an engineering firm to see if it could be stabilized enough to even build a house without a basement on it.

We were pretty crushed.

But we managed to get through it.

The site was stabilized with landscape strengthener and (a lot of) gravel, eventually, new plans we loved (without a basement) were drawn up, and we gathered up our dream to try again… the next summer.


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