Monday, April 29, 2013

Old MacDonald had a Farm Puppets

As part of this year's handmade gift challenge, I made these Old MacDonald Puppets for Wyatt's third birthday. I got the idea and templates from this awesome craft blog Just Another Day in Paradise.
The puppets were seriously cute already so I didn't change much other than adding overalls and a straw hat on Old MacDonald himself.

I also added a zippered bag made out of some John Deere fabric to keep them all together. I'm really happy with how they turned out. I had so much felt I ended up making two matching sets. This way I'll have a gift ready to go on short notice. Next birthday is my baby Emmett, he's turning one at the end of May. I was thinking of making him a puppet set too since Wyatt doesn't share this one very well. Maybe safari animals, or a Canada set with a beaver, moose, polar bear, etc. What do you think? Any different animal group suggestions?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Best of Bath Worlds: Before and After

I haven't always hated my bathroom. When we moved in 6 years ago the whole house was in pretty bad shape. It had been a rental and it was obvious that the landlord had put the bare minimum into this place.


So, even though there was a lot of work to do we decided that we loved the area, and for a first house it was affordable which meant we would have some spare change in the budget to change things here and there. Six years later the house was complete: new roof, kitchen, furnace and air conditioner, windows and doors, soil grading and garden, light fixtures and outlets, shed, finished basement with additional half bath, hot water tank, flooring throughout.

When we first moved in, the bathroom was so far off the reno-radar it didn't even register. It had a white tub, toilet and sink so it seemed fine. It even had this cool black and white floor. Well, it didn't take long after moving in to realize that cool floor was made up of square foot stick on vinyl that were no longer sticking and mold was forming underneath them. The ceramic tiles in the shower looked fine but water had made it's way behind them and softened the wall. When you pushed on sections of the wall it would move.


Jason, his dad and cousin Travis got together to do a budget renovation that would get rid of the structural and health issues. They replaced the floor with a single cut to fit piece of vinyl, ripped down the tile, made wall repairs (the insulation was wet but luckily the framing members were ok), put up a cheap tub surround and freshened it up with a new paint job. I knew this was never the long term solution but it looked great and felt solid.

At least it was good for a few years. Then we started noticing the caulking around the tub would never hold and got moldy really quickly, plus the finish on the tub was so worn that dirt stuck to it and the darn thing never looked clean.

So a few months ago we decided it was time for the major overhaul we'd always wanted. The bathroom was completely gutted and built back from the studs. While we definitely kept things affordable (bathrooms can get crazy expensive), we didn't cut any corners on the foundation. A new level and solid subfloor and hardibacker/waterproof membrane behind the tiles means this bathroom will last many many years.

I love how this space turned out from the subway tile,to the wrought iron towel hooks to the the vinyl tile hardwood "look" floor.  I would have preferred a vanity sink with storage but I didn't think it would work in this space so instead we built an over the toilet shelf based on this design by Ana White.

The best part is how easy it is to clean the tub. Have you ever tackled a bathroom?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Starting Seeds to get my Garden Fix

The view out my kitchen window is unusually white for mid April. A foot or more of snow still covers my raised garden beds. The tops of the compost bins are peaking out, the black plastic trying to melt the snow around them but nowhere near efficient enough to cook compost right now. I imagine it to be one solid block of the winters veggie scraps sitting on top of autumn's leaves. I can't help but check daily, noting how the sun is now high enough for full sun in my beds. My house is a two story on a postage stamp of a lot. In the fall, the angle of the sun turns my whole backyard into "where the sun don't shine", literally. I've toyed with the idea of cold frames only to realize after hours of planning that no cold frame will work if the sun doesn't shine on it. So while I wait for the slow melt, I'm turning to indoor seed starting to get my fix.

First I needed to make sure my handsome assistant was available. His brother Emmett had just gone down for the AM nap so I knew we had a good hour.

I ordered all my seeds in January from Heritage Harvest Seeds, a Manitoba business that only sells open polinated and heirloom varieties. I like that these seeds came from my area and that I could save them for next year if I wanted. I couldn't wait to start gardening so I had already planted some red onions (Tropeana Lunga) back in February.  I then decided to add a heat mat to my collection. I failed at starting my melons last year and had heard that lack of heat could have been the problem. I really really want melons and Jason asked for peppers so I made leap and bought a heat map. Other than the florescent light set up, the heat lamp was the most expensive part of my indoor equipment. It was about $30.

 Wyatt and I had another garden morning April 6th and planted basil, lettuce, 3 different tomatoes, sweet peppers, spinach, beets and swiss chard. We used the peat pellets that came with the heat mat kit to plant 2-3 seeds per pellet and put them on the heat to germinate. The difference was awesome, seeds were popping up in 3 days. Unfortunately I made some beginner mistakes. I should have taken out the plants that had germinated and moved them under the lights. Instead, I just popped open the lid and waited for the rest of the seeds. After a week, the tomatoes were already leggy and the chard and beets were hitting the lid. I also think it was too hot for the spinach and lettuce. Only a few plants had bothered to germinate. I know it is still early and hopefully in their new non-heated home, the rest will pop up soon.


We transplanted the tomatoes, burying the stem deep so that new roots will grow and hopefully making them hardier. Only 1 of the 3 peppers had sprouted so it stayed on the heat mat for now along with the basil (I read that both will benefit from a little longer with the extra temperature).


So under the basement lights they go. Now if only the weather would start co-operating. My official last frost date is the end of May. I was hoping to put out cold weather plants (onions, lettuce, chard, beets) at the end of April. We'll see.

Do you like to garden? Have you ever considered growing backyard vegetables?