Resolving the Christmas Ornament Dilemma

I can get in my high-horse about just about anything if you catch me in the right mood, but when it comes to issues I really care about working conditions is top of the list. And while I’ve never been one to spend a lot of time worrying over this years Christmas decorating “theme” and usually just barely get the tree up in time to take it down, this year I kind of needed ornaments. Apparently the ornaments of your childhood only last so long and through so many kids, cats and dogs before 45+ years of wear and tear leaves the tree looking sort of bare.

So here is my dilemma. Most Christmas decor is made in China, which doesn’t bother me except for the fact that some of it is made under deplorable conditions. We’ve all seen the young man covered in red flocking right? I ignored my inner activist and purchased a fake tree this year. It’s even ‘gasp’ flocked, but I know I’ll use it for a number of years and after 3 years it’s paid for itself in what real trees would have cost.

But the new ‘flocked’ tree was still short of ornaments and looking pretty bare. I looked at ornaments, some of them were even on sale, but all of them were made in China and I kept seeing that young man covered in red flocking every time I looked at them. Even the ones that weren’t red or flocked.

So I decided I was going to make ornaments. Except I dare you to walk into a craft store and find craft supplies that aren’t made in china. All of those tiny bottle brush trees, ribbon, glitter and cute little snowflake cut-outs. Every single one of them made in China under dubious working conditions. Then I saw these really neat looking origami stars, and decided to give it a whirl.

Freezer Paper and metallic spray paint

I started with freezer paper (made in an undisclosed location) and after ripping off a length of it, used metallic spray paint (made in Canada) in copper and brass color to add some bling. Once it was dry I fan-folded the length of freezer paper to cut out my pentagons.

Fist Fold

I’ve spent a couple of evenings folding while watching TV. It cuts down on the whiskey and cigarette consumption if my hands are busy. Finished StarWith this new tree,¬† there are lots of ‘flocked’ branches, but they are all rather close together. It makes for a nice looking full tree, but doesn’t leave a lot of ‘drop’ room for ornaments. These paper stars fill in the gaps nicely without any hooks or loops. I just nestled them in among the branches and filled in the gaps.

My tree

The best part? Nobody got covered in flocking while earning pennies to make them.

I’m making some more complex ornaments too, but considering I just got started they may be posts for next Christmas. I like to call it planned procrastination.

The Peel and Stick Floor That Won’t Stick

With my two main living spaces finally painted I was more than ready to start installing my peel & stick vinyl floor tiles on Saturday and probably would have pulled an all nighter just to see it done. Except like painting walls, there is some preparation to do before laying vinyl tiles.

Filling Large CracksYou have to fill any large cracks and divots so the tile won’t crack over the void. This room had carpeting at one point which meant there were still staples here and there to remove. The tiles are thin, and any bumps underneath them turn into wear spots on your flooring pretty quickly.

So I pulled staples, scraped up bumps and lumps and filled in cracks and holes. Then I waited for the mud to dry again. Once it dried, then I had to fill in the paw prints because of course the dog just had to walk and lay on the floor right? Then I primed over the places where I had patched and cleaned the first section of flooring.

Test LayoutIt’s recommended to find the center of your room and use a chalk line to sort of quarter the room. Then you start installing the tiles from the center, one quarter at a time. Except I can’t completely clear the room and because this is a room that adjoins other rooms that are already tiled I’m not doing that. I did lay out a test run though. From experience, I know you don’t want any areas that end up being smaller than a quarter tile. If you have to cut a piece that small it will never stay stuck to the floor.

Lifting Tiles 2Yesterday morning after getting my boys off to work, I finally started to stick my tile down. I managed a 4 x 7 section before it was time to start working, and I was pretty excited to continue later that evening. Getting on with my day I left the house for a while.

Lifting TilesI don’t know if you can tell from these pictures, but when I came home and looked at my pretty little section of flooring, I was not impressed. Not one single tile adhered to the floor properly. They are all lifting. I’ve put peel and stick flooring in three other rooms and never had this happen before – ever.

Down, but not out.

More Jumbled FurnitureI was pretty discouraged last night. My house is a mess, there’s furniture all over the place to clear space to work. Navigating the narrow walkways from room to room is irritating and usually there is a dog in front of me when I’m trying to move around. Jumbled Furniture Laundry is always a battle, but it’s a lot worse with no place to sit and fold it all. I just want it all to be done – preferably with flooring. I spent the evening reading and sulking about the situation.

Tonight I’m going to try using an adhesive for vinyl flooring and see what happens.

As Exciting As Watching Mud Dry

I am convinced it’s will be months before I take a paint roller to any of these walls. My plan on the long Thanksgiving weekend was to paint my bedroom/office/laundry room and ideally have it all back together again before the end of the weekend. It was a sound plan, based on needing to work in there during the week.Corner Bead The problem is in that room I have a closet doorway that wasn’t finished and drywall compound dries on its own schedule, not mine.

Only I want to paint now. I need to see that clean color on the walls and I need to finish, or mostly finish one freaking room. Just one, so I can start putting stuff where it’s going to live finally. So hey, the dining room is easy right? Except it isn’t. It’s dirty, the walls are full of dried food, dog slobbers and spider shit – which experience has taught me does bleed through latex paint. There’s also dozens of holes to fill – thank you ex-husband for giving them those pellet guns – and there’s the spot that had to be cut out to replace the tub faucet.

Honestly, a blow-torch would be easier.

Since whining never accomplished anything, I got started by washing the walls and then pulling off the door casing.

my favorite door casingThis is actually my favorite trim profile. The problem is I only have enough for one room that flows into other rooms and this is custom mill work that was given to my ex by a guy who had some left over from a job. I can’t have two doors on the same wall with one trimmed in this and the other in colonial. So knowing I would be replacing it anyhow, I pulled it down. Why paint then replace the trim, only to find out the new trim isn’t as wide as the old and have to do more repair work?

I moved the water cooler away from the wall.moldAnd found mold. Thankfully it is surface mold, since the tub and it’s issues are on the other side of that wall I had a bit of a panic attack at first. I know the bathroom has to be redone soon, but it’s not in my budget right now.

hole in the wallThen there’s this beauty which I swear one of my boys put in the wall within the first month of the last time I painted. Fiber wall repair tapeThis is the stuff I like for patching small holes.

hole in wall with mesh over itYou just clean the wall, trim it to size, stick it on and then mud over it. I also need to fix that line in the wall next to the hole – it’s on both sides and runs the full height of the doorway. Painted drywall compound isn’t easily sanded, so my only option is to fill it.

I can’t even paint the ceiling, because I had to patch over the bathroom door, where steam had made the paint flake and chip. So here I am at a complete stand still. Waiting for mud to dry.

I guess I’ll fold laundry instead.

“The” chair, and a Tale of Three Cushions

I started searching for a specific style of chair at the beginning of the summer. I knew exactly what I wanted and I talked about it a little bit here, and here. The Perfect ChairThen I found one on Kijiji that had no cushions but it was in fantastic condition. So I bought some slab foam and fabric and then second guessed my choice¬†here. Tonight I finally finished covering the cushions for it with the fabric I wasn’t going to use.

From the frontThere was a lot of anxiety over making the cushions for this chair which is silly because the entire reason I wanted this style was because if I get tired of the cushions all I have to do is make new covers.

So this week, I’ve made covers for three different cushions.

Chair makeover - seat cushionThere was the spring cushion wrapped in coir.

Slab foam over spring seat cushionI plumped it up with some 1″ thick foam on each side. I think this one actually went the easiest. The front side piece is separate from the side going around the rest of the perimeter which made for easier corners – I just sewed a vertical seam on each corner at the very end.

That wasn't the look I wanted Saggy baggy coverTonight’s cushions almost ended catastrophically, or at least with some quality time spent with my seam ripper. In the end I just wrapped each foam slab with quilt batting. It was enough to take up the bagginess, and made the cushions look much nicer. Before the batting, even without the bagginess they looked like they were the “economy” model.

On the bottom cushion, I first tried sewing all the way around in one go to attach the side piece to the top. Slash the cornersTrial and error, I’ve decided it is easier to break your line of stitching 1/2″ (my seam allowance) from the corner and then re-pin after slashing the corner seam allowance. Which is how I did all of my corners on the back cushion.

Use long zippers and trim them to lengthFor the zippers, the most economical option was to use a duvet cover zipper. This was also the easiest to work with – I just trimmed off the excess. Just make sure your zipper tab is on the side you’re keeping before you cut.

I’ve also learned that the best knife for cutting really thick slab foam is a well sharpened butcher knife, it worked even better than a utility knife for giving tidy smooth cuts.

Rattan Chair, From Ratty to Sleek

So you remember when I got that fabulous rattan chair at Value Village? The grubby one with the skeevy green vinyl cushion? You can’t remember?

Vintage Natural Rattan Chair with green cushionThe one I brought home months ago and endured some serious teasing from my son over?

Chair makeover - under the vinylBack then the first thing I did after bringing it home (and defending my choices in old cast-off furniture to my oldest), was I took the nasty green vinyl off to give the wicker a good scrubbing. The dingy muslin or cheese cloth or whatever that stuff was got ripped off too.

Chair makeover - wrappingI removed tons of little nails that had held the muslin on. Most of the wrapped parts were in rough shape with the wicker broken, or missing and nails sticking out.

Chair makeover - removedSo I removed all of it, even the few parts that were still okay because in my house fragile does not work.

Chair makeover - paintedI knew I didn’t want a white wicker look so I painted it this really pretty stony grey color. I also tore apart the cushions so I could use the vinyl for a pattern.

Chair makeover - seat cushionThe bottom cushion actually has springs in it and because the coir was protected by the vinyl, it was still like new so I decided to recover it.

Chair makeover - mouse nest anyoneThis stuff was still good to, but it just looks like something mice would love to nest in. I couldn’t make myself reuse it because mouse nests = mouse pee which is a nasty smell.

Then I piled everything in a corner and ignored it for months. But this weekend is finally the weekend to finish these chairs, so I hauled out my sewing machine and the leftover fabric that I was planning on using for my other chair.

Chair with Blue Lattice design on greyI used 1″ foam in place of the mouse nesting fluff on both sides, so nobody will get poked by a spring.Slab foam over spring seat cushion And when the cushions were all done they looked great, until I put them on the gray wicker chair. Then they just looked blah. Matt was impressed with my sewing skills, but the color wasn’t working for him either.

So off to the hardware store I went with fantasies of buying spray paint in exactly the blue of the fabric except spray paint doesn’t work like that, so I had to pick something else. I painted the chair around cooking dinner tonight and once it was dry enough I had to see how it was going to look.

Finished Rattan Chair 2And it looks so amazing! The original seat back was nailed to the rattan and I still have to decide if I’m going to nail this one to the back. I also have a few places to hit with the black paint again for better coverage.

Finished Rattan Chair 1I love the way that shiny black looks on this chair, even though I normally hate shiny stuff. I am so happy with the way the bottom cushion worked out too. I had debated using cording to give it a really polished look but I just wasn’t feeling motivated to cut strips of fabric and make some. Even without it I’m really happy with this little chair. The wicker is so visually light that it makes the chair seem dainty and small, but I can assure you it’s a comfy seat.

PS The wall hanging behind the chair was salvaged from the landfill a few years ago.

The Painted Drawer

As Many Shelves As It Takes

When you mix together a small house with not nearly enough storage and a habit of not putting things away, clutter happens. The problem can get really out of hand in my kitchen. We like such a wide variety of foods, and I have to prepare every meal in huge quantities so that we all get enough for dinner and my young men each get a lunch for the next day. Every cupboard, shelf, and drawer is just jam packed all the time.

Things tend to pile on the counter, especially on the part of the counter right by the door. Mail, keys and other things get dropped there and never dealt with. This is also where my coffee maker lives, and since it’s almost always in use, the filters, coffee canister and sugar bowl all live there too.

Now you can imagine with our early mornings around here, there is always water, coffee grounds, sugar and coffee being spilled over there. Wiping it up only takes a second, moving everything out of the way to wipe it up is a genuine pain in the ass.

I’ve been eyeing the space above the coffee maker for a long time now, today I followed through and made a trip to Home Hardware. Coffee Station

My oldest asked me just how many ‘tacky’ shelves I was going to put up when he saw the shelf and brackets. My answer was “As many as it takes to get all of our crap under control.”

Seriously, getting the cans and what not up off the counter makes me so happy. The tins are ones I picked up at Value Village. They all hold what the label says, except for the flour. That’s where the dog treats are. I used to have a set of these in chrome, but certain boys who shall remain nameless, stashed banana peels in them one time so they went in the trash.

Now if I could just get all of my mason jars to stay put away, which would mean getting certain people to stop using them as drinking glasses.

Now It Actually Looks Like a Ten by Ten Shed!

I just took our dinner out of the oven. At 10 pm. Also, I smell a lot like a gym bag. But the shed is mostly finished!

The Lawnmower's new homeAll of our lawn equipment has a home. This is the side of the shed that used to have the armpit height bench running from one end to the other. So you can see the hockey equipment that still needs to get donated, but we will be able to get our lawnmower in and out now. All of the rakes are hanging over the lawnmower. I’m keeping them segregated from the rest of the yard tools so they aren’t turning everything into a snarled mess anymore.

ToolboxEven better, now that the lawnmower and power washer won’t be living in the middle of the shed, we can get to the new and improved bench. It’s exactly as long as it needs to be with plenty of room for shovels and yard tools in the corner behind it. There is room for all of our power tools under the toolbox and even more storage below that! Best of all, the window is directly across from the tool box so some natural light will fall on it, instead of being behind it like it used to be. Shelf underneathWe have three of these old drawers and want to figure out a way to use them as drawers out there. One is for miscellaneous hardware, one is all plumbing and electrical stuff. The other one is still exploring it’s options. Below that are two bins that Loblaws used to sell. One is for drywall tools, the other painting tools. Now no matter which project you are working on you just grab the bin you need and go!

ShelvingThis shelf holds all of the crap that used to wind up piled in front of the “workbench”.

To the roof shelvingIt goes right to the roof. Plenty of space for fertilizers, pesticides, motor oil and all of the stuff we use around here. It is so awesome to have a space for everything and be able to see it all at a glance.

There are still some odds and ends to sort through, and we’re considering another shelf over the toolbox. Myself I would like to add a pegboard, but as Matt says why spend money when we’re moving? Everything we did this weekend was done with things I already had and salvaged lumber. So the only money I spent was $20 on a bucket of screws, that now have their own damn home in the shed!

You know before the shed was such a mess I could never find anything, which is probably why I’m the proud owner of three caulking guns. Three! I also found at least a half dozen utility knifes, and said that we shouldn’t need anymore of those for the rest of our lives.

So I might spend an evening or two out there finishing up this week. After I get the housework caught up! Next weekend I had planned on jacking up the floor, but then today I discovered this.

2015-08-30 10.51.10Yes, it’s exactly what it looks like – a toadstool growing beside my very dirty toilet. Gross. It’s going to be even more gross fixing the flange and the floor around it. Ick.

I haven’t got a single extra tile either, so fingers crossed they lift up easily and I don’t have to redo the entire floor. Que sera, sera.

Wet Band Aids and Other Things I Hate

There are a lot of things I hate, but today involved at least five of them.

  • Any injury to my fingers – I don’t quite cry like a baby but I usually really want to.
  • Band Aids
  • Wet Band Aids
  • Spiders
  • Anything that has me bitching, or wanting to bitch about my ex-husband. For the sake of clarity, any negative comments I make in this post are targeted at the man my ex was twenty years ago. I like to pretend that man is a distant cousin to the ex of now. Life just works better that way.


Matt and I working together, pretty much emptied the shed so we could organize it better. I was sensible and wore actual shoes instead of flip-flops. Where I wasn’t so sensible was the thumb on my right hand.

2015-05-03 22.01.50Remember way back when I was building the raised corner bed and did this? Well that nail has been slowly growing out all summer and now it’s at the point where it’s catching on everything.

My ThumbSo of course I managed to rip it a bit more today – cue up Band Aid number one.

Tarp covering toolsAnd then it started to rain, because of course. Tarp covering stuff from the shedI mean why wouldn’t it rain when your yard is full of power tools and other shit that should not get wet?

Pile of Old TrimBut I do have one hell of a pile for the bonfire. I had been hanging onto all these pieces of old mismatched trim. We looked at them in the shed. We hemmed, we hawed. Then we decided that it would be more dicking around than it was worth to try and reuse that trim. Okay, really I decided and Matt listened to me hem and haw. I’m assuming it was a good choice just because it felt so damn good to do it. Old Hockey EquipmentI set aside some old kid’s hockey equipment to donate. Matt suggested it was worth money but I decided it was worth nothing sitting in my shed so why not just donate is so some little kid could have hockey equipment. I also swept out a million dead bug carcasses while praying none of the spiders scurrying away were brown recluses. Matt claims they aren’t around here but I’m not convinced.

Here is where I wish I could show you a before picture of the shed, except I didn’t take one. So you will have to visualize a 10′ x 10′ shed, that my ex-husband put a work bench in. Down one entire wall of the shed. At armpit height.

It’s an uninsulated, unheated shed with no electrical.

What the hell do you need a work bench for? To even use it, you would spend about five hours taking everything out of the shed to make room to get to it.

I unscrewed the plywood that was the top in no time, then spent a good fifteen minutes trying to take out the single nail some jackass I used to know used. Then Matt took the full sized sledgehammer to the framing and got most of it out. I broke out my new pry bars and between those and my mini sledgehammer it was fucking awesome. I truly love any opportunity to a) demo and b) wipe the slate clean on stupid shit my ex did. After all, I don’t want reminders of my own stupid mistakes and decisions, why would I want to have reminders of his?

Wall cupboardBecause I wanted to put shelves on the side wall, two ridiculous cabinets needed to come down. And this is where I spent some serious time cursing the old ex because here is this guy who works in the construction industry and he nailed those stupid cabinets up with spikes that refused to let go. What the hell was wrong with using screws and making life easier for his ex wife?

Why use screws when you can use nailsSo out came my mini sledge, which is going to get her own name soon because after a day spent swinging her I’ve grown very fond of her. And life was freaking awesome, until it wasn’t. Which would be at the very last bit that let go suddenly and led to the next injury as both hands scraped down the studs of the wall.

Right Hand The Left HandI spent at least five minutes with my hands pressed to my thighs, and then went in the house dripping blood while hollering for Justin to help me with the Band Aids and get me a dark towel that wouldn’t show blood stains. That is a total of four Band Aids for the day. Band Aids on my fingers that you know got wet a million times before bedtime.

Sunday will be all about adding shelves, a bench for the toolbox that hits somewhere south of armpit height, and putting all of that crap away.

Good times!

Sharing Tools Sucks Monkey Balls

I had just 3 things I wanted to do today.

  • I wanted to install my kitchen faucet. It would be nice if I can enjoy it for a while before I put this house on the market. Plus it’s cluttering up my kitchen table now.
  • I wanted to install a ring on the foundation to properly tie the dog before Canada Post refuses to deliver my mail.
  • I wanted to move my mailbox out of the reach of the properly tied dog because why tie the dog if she still can’t get to the mailbox.

All of those things need tools.

So remember when I did the massive purge and organize? It really wasn’t that long ago.

stuff - pantry shelf bottomRemember when there was this? A little red toolbox with every tool I needed for home maintenance and repair? But then there was this. Matthew, sitting under his truck iPad in hand to Google what he needs to do to the Duck Dynasty Truck to put it back togetherThe new clutch and such on the Duck Dynasty truck. So when I went to find my channel locks in the little red toolbox they weren’t there so nix the new faucet. I can’t even turn the water off without them.

The rest of the stuff I wanted to do followed pretty much that exact theme, with dogs glued to my ass every step of the way. First I didn’t have the impact driver, then I didn’t have the right socket to use instead. Then I didn’t have long enough bolts and Home Hardware had already closed for the day.

So the new mailbox is sitting beside the new post, and folding laundry is looking like an awesome way to spend the rest of the evening. After all nobody really expects to actually finish their laundry and a few piles of folded socks and underwear will look like an accomplishment of sorts.

A Miter Saw and A Clothesline

I had two big items on my to-do list this weekend. One was to clean out the shed and the other was to put up a clothesline. Cleaning out the shed with a recently broken toe seemed like a guaranteed way to inspire cursing and tears so I gave that one a pass. So clothesline it was.

Putting up a clothesline has been on my to-do list for a couple of months now. I’ve even had all the supplies for it for that long. There was only one thing holding me back – that stupid circular saw. Seriously, I try not to let much intimidate me, but no matter how many times I use that thing I never get comfortable with it. For one, I’m a lefty and a circular saw is a very right-handed tool. Two, there is always kick-back when I use it. Always.

You know what makes a tool that could potentially cut your arm off even scarier? When it kicks back towards your body and there isn’t a damn thing you can do to stop it because you have to use it with your wrong hand.

Because I hate that saw so much, I’ve been lusting after a sliding compound miter saw. Except a good one of those runs around $500. It’s a lot of money. I could go cheaper and just get a miter saw but a decent one of those runs a couple of hundred bucks – still a lot of money in a household that doesn’t have much. Miter SawOut of the spoils of my divorce, I just happen to have a Makita miter saw in my shed. Miter Saw with frayed cordThe problem with this miter saw is the cord was in such bad shape there was absolutely no way I was going to plug that sucker in without replacing the cord first. So I started getting out the screwdrivers and taking it apart – because at this point what do I have to lose?Miter Saw with stripped screw Of course there is always that one screw that screws you and strips. My usual trick of using a Green Robbie wasn’t getting it out. My Dad told me to try using a brand new Phillips bit in my drill. Something about the bit cutting in more because it’s new. Miter Saw wiringMiter Saw wiring twoThank you Dad, because that worked. So then I took pictures of the wiring because I’m way too old to trust my memory – and took the old cord off.

Then I made my first trip this weekend to Home Hardware. Usually by Sunday I’ve been there at least 3 or 4 times already. I love that store – it’s close to my house and they have Fred. Fred knows where everything is, and Fred actually knows how shit works so he can help me figure out what I need to do if I’m a little lost. So I bought 9 feet of new cord, a new plug, a bolt to replace the stripped one and a nut to replace the one that fell under the deck, a marret (Google claims this is the right spelling) and a crimp on connector. And because sometimes I can actually be optimistic, a new saw blade. The saw blade was $34 dollars and the total bill was under $50. So already this is a pretty cheap repair.

I’m not going to show you how I replaced the cord because I’m not very comfortable giving advice when it comes to playing with electricity. If you ever need to know, there are You Tube videos out there. Let’s just say, I got it all back together and it works.

Miter Saw with lots of toolsYou can see by all the tools I made a lot of trips back and forth to the toolbox, which is usually the case for something I’ve never done before. I just don’t usually do it gimping along with a broken toe. Now I suppose I could have called it a day at this point, but since I was having such a blast cutting wood without worrying about performing a self amputation, I made the clothesline posts.

Since it was a full day and Matt was around with his young muscles, I coaxed him into digging the post holes. In a couple of days I’ll string the line – and I will use Fred’s suggestion of cutting the wire with a hack-saw because side cutters do not work on clothesline cable. If you want instructions for building your own clothesline check out this post on DIY Diva.

Having a saw I’m comfortable using is going to make all the difference around here. I have a list of projects that I’ve been avoiding just because I didn’t want to use the circular saw or ask someone to cut lumber for me. So being able to repair the miter saw was a boon. Having a clothesline is going to be an even bigger boon with what the Ontario Liberals have done to our electricity rates. Here in Ontario we have Time of Use billing – which means the rates between 7am and 7pm are jacked sky-high so we all have to wait until after 7 pm, when I would really rather be doing other things or the weekend when I for sure want to be doing other things than laundry.