Goodbye Christmas…

It is always bittersweet taking down all the decorations, the garlands, the tree.  This year it was particularly hard as I was quite in love with some of my handmades…

I took some pictures so I could remember and thought you might enjoy them too.

Solstice StockingsI’m particularly sad to see these babies packed away.  I’ve been wanting to make them for a while and finally got around to it this year.  I started in July and got sidetracked. I embroidered two of them while at a conference in November and of course I finished the last one two days before the holidays.  The pattern can be found in my favourite craft book of all time:

Scandinavian NeedlecraftYou can find other projects I’ve made from this book here (don’t worry I fixed it) and here.

Scandinavian Heart embroidery

Scandinavian Snowflake Embroidery

Scandinavian Snowflake Embroidery Christmas StockingWell, you can see why I love them can’t you?  They are so beautiful!  (as a side note, I had a good laugh while editing these photos.  Take a good look at some of the titles on the bookshelf…I hung this stocking in front of “All Family’s are Psychotic” LOL…that might tie in with some holiday celebrations non?).

pinecone garland

Pinecone garlandAnd I couldn’t resist taking this photo in the morning light (no editing I swear) of my favourite handmade holiday decoration.  I make one every year.  I collect the pinecones in the fall at my in law’s place. I also took a fallen branch or two from their forest and used them around the house and on the porch in the form of garlands and evergreen swags.  The pinecones I keep in a paper bag in the basement until December and they usually have opened nicely by then.  The orange slices I dehydrate in the oven the same day I make the garland using jute twine.   This year I hung it along a pine branch that I secured to the curtain rod in my front window.  I love how the light shines through the oranges like stained glass.

cedar wreaths with red ribbonMy second favourite decoration this year are these cedar wreaths I made using cedar branches I trimmed from our cedar shrubs in the front yard.  I really hated taking them down.  I love the way they looked and with them gone I can’t decide what to put in their place.  Any ideas?

cedar wreaths and juniper boughsI tucked some Juniper boughs into a basket my friend’s mom made me as a wedding gift.  Santa had a kind of Scandinavian look and I picked him up from my local VV.  The red wooden bead garland? VV.  The reindeer candle holders were also a find at VV and now that I am typing this, I can’t decide if they are my second favourite or not…no.  They are my third favourite for sure.  Mostly because it was a nightmare trying to put the candles in place without splitting them.  So they get third place…

Solstice mantle

IMG_2082Here is what they look like lit up.  So pretty.  The chalkboard (from HomeSense) did boast a chalk christmas tree but I erased it before I thought of taking any pictures.cedar wreaths in windowAnd finally, one of my very favourite handmades this year, cedar branches hot glued onto embroidery hoops hung with red ribbon at my kitchen window.  I loved waking up to this bright and cheery window every wintry morning.  It made me smile.apple candle holderAnd this sat on my window sill.  I made a few of these apple candle holders and used them to light our Solstice dinner table.  I love the red of the apples…and the fact that most of my decorations will now find themselves in the compost heap and not the land fill. In fact I now only have one box of Christmas decorations to store.  Mostly ornaments and lights.

So while it was hard to take them down, I do like to start the new year with fresh walls and less clutter.

Here is to fresh starts!  Happy 2014 everyone!!

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Making a house a home…

They say the heart of a home is the kitchen.  The Missus loves cooking and helping in our real kitchen and then spends much of the rest of her time pretending to be cooking or baking as well.   So it made sense that the hideout/playhouse needed a play kitchen.  It is a total hack which is either a really good thing proving that anyone can do this using materials that are cheap and easily attainable or it is a bad thing and totally proves Martha Stewart‘s point.  Either way, I wanted to share this with those who have generously donated materials for this build and perhaps it will serve as inspiration for those wanting to do the same for their children.  And so, without further ado:

I started with an upper cupboard I found for $10 at our local Habitat for Humanity Restore.  I chose it because it was fairly skinny in its profile and the doors were the old-fashioned kind.  On most modern cupboards the doors cover the entire front of the opening and that would have been problem in terms of opening and closing.  So I put the cupboard upside down on the floor (so that the pulls on the doors were at the top) and secured it in place with screws.
IMG_1880Then I got out the last piece of that seemingly endless board from the garage (that we’ve used for projects in the kitchen and living room already) to make a countertop.  I was so excited about doing this project that I didn’t care that I didn’t have the right tools for the job.  I happily got out what power tools I had on hand and started working.

IMG_1881Yeah,  you should always use the proper tools.  By the end I was a sweaty mess trying to wrestle the wood into place.  I made mistakes.  But don’t worry I fixed ’em and who cares it is a playhouse right? Right.  So not prefect but still “super cool” according to the Missus.

IMG_1883Do not dwell on the jagged edges of the hole that I created for the sink…like I said I fixed them.  I used the drill to drill circles big enough to fit the $5 taps I found at Value Village.  I also used the drill to poor effect in making the hole for the sink in the top of the cupboard and the reclaimed board for the countertop (and I used the skill saw and a hammer and I swore…a lot).  Oh and also don’t trouble yourself about the unfinished wall behind the cupboards…I’ll get to that later.

IMG_1891See?  The wall is (almost) finished now.  I used an old metal bowl for sink and a piece of 2×4 to fix the gap at the end of the counter.  I’ll be drawing on some stove top elements with permanent marker at some point and painting the fridge (an old store from the MOD shop a few years ago).  Oh and painting the wall…and finishing around the windows…was it me that said she didn’t want to see this project end?  Surely not.

kids kitchen in playhouseWe have plans for kitchen curtains and matching tea towels as well but I’m not sure how they will fare through the winter in such an unprotected playhouse.  So we may leave that project for the spring and summer.

So that is our most recent update.  What do you think so far?

************UPDATE**************

I found a use for one of the three medicine cabinets from our bathroom upstairs as a nice upper cabinet for the play kitchen.

playhouse kitchen

The hideout: an update

IMG_1838The hideout turned playhouse is coming along.  The walls boards are up and we’re starting on the finishing touches.  I admit the inherently slow pace of an upcycle project like this one has its downsides but we’ve enjoyed the challenge.

IMG_1841You know, the challenge of finding one more fence board that fits that wonky spot.  Or the challenge of almost finishing a wall and then running out of that kind of tongue in groove wood of that particular width and MacGyvering something that will do.  Finding enough similar looking shingles was interesting…

IMG_1852It turns out we didn’t know enough people with old fence panels and old wall sections to finish the back wall.  So we used the left over pieces of chipboard that went on the roof.  Definitely NOT as pretty as the other rustic looking sections.  So we decided to paint the interior.  It was amazingly easy to find old paint.  White was a no brainer given that we could mix our donations and paint can finds together to cover it all.   We found an almost full can of (OLD) white primer in our garage and we had a number of white tester samples to mix.  The rest came from neighbours and we’ve been told our local Restore carries paints as well.

IMG_1844The girls had a blast and worked hard to finish before sunset.  It is getting darker earlier and earlier though and we’ll have to finish another day.  This seems to be a theme with this space…each time we are working on it we think of some other amazing detail to add…another day.  It keeps us thinking.  It has us researching.  We’re thinking of this, and this and a slide like this.

IMG_1866And so we dream up big possibilities and have fun working together until we’re tired.  And then we have fun taking breaks and making more plans.

IMG_1860Ultimately we’re learning that if we really want to stick to our budget and committment to use used wood and materials then we must be patient.  So far our biggest gift is learning how generous and resourceful our friends and neighbours are. Heck we’ve met so many new people and we have on occasion come home to gifts of shelves, baskets, markers (for future art work of course) not to mention the lumber, roofing paper, shingles and nails we already received.  This is certainly a labour of love.  And I’m not sure I actually want it to ever be finished.

The Backyard Part 1: Natural Playscapes for kids

We have a lovely, large backyard.   The woman who lived here before us was a champion gardener and a member of the horticultural society and there are incredible flowerbeds…everywhere.  I am not complaining, afterall, that is quite a gift (even if I have my work more than cut out for me trying to keep them up).  But while flowers are pretty we needed some areas that the kids could play in and explore.  And we needed to do it on a budget.  Natural playscapes appealed to us and we were intrigued by living willow structures and had even found a Canadian source for willow cuttings.  But again, we had that budget…

So, we started last fall by transporting some tree stumps and cedar logs from J’s parents place in the forest to our urban backyard.  These were instant hits with the girls:

Hideoutbackyardstumps

Hideoutbalancebeam

Who knew jumping on stumps was such fun?  Or that cedar logs made such great balance beams?  Amazing, natural and cheap.  We loved it.

Next we starting making a “hut” like structure out of tall, skinny tree branches (again from J’s parents place):

Hideoutbackyardbefore

We used jute twine to tie the branches together forming a dome.  We added a door shape and a few windows on each side.  In the winter we cut up our evergreen tree (and a few of our friends) and wove the boughs through to give the structure form and privacy.

Hideoutbeforewith firepit

Here is what is looked like this summer.  We had placed the stumps in a semi-circle and moved out fire pit to the centre.  It has been a great spot for roasting marshmallows!  You can see the “finished” structure in the background after we had removed the old and dried out christmas branches and other yard waste the kids had woven in.  Next we removed the sod/grass in a circle around the play structure, added soil and planted beans with the idea being that they would grow over the branches and give cover that way.  Unfortunately, there was a heat wave while we were away for vacation this year and the beans didn’t really take.  We came home to a sad little wooden dome that was not much more than a bunch of dried out sticks.  Which is just as well since it was meant to be temporary (although we had hoped it would last through this season.  Since then the girls have hatched another plan anyways.  A bigger and more involved plan – a hideout!!

The have drawn designs, discussed various fort “must-haves” such as a lookout and a trap door.  The area behind the temporary dome seemed like a great space and so we went straight to work.  I can’t wait to show you the progress we are making on the much larger and more involved play structure in Part 2 of this series.  But for now you can ask friends and relatives for stumps and branches to get you started on building a natural playground for your kids…

Mama’s got a brand new…door.

The first day of Spring found us still under a blanket of snow outside.  So what is a mama to do but add some colour inside?  We are slowly making progress on the kitchen.  The wallpaper is down, walls scrubbed, repaired and painted (Benjamin Moore Woodlawn blue if you are wondering).  We decided to use the same colour in the hall, up the stairs and into the hall upstairs.  The tile backsplash will be painted and so far with only one coat of primer it is looking fantastic.  Jamie of The Painted Pear is coming next week to prep and spray lacquer our tired, old cabinets – I am so excited about this part!!

Before I play show and tell with a few pics of the kitchen in progress and my “new” front door, I have to show you this new trick I learned!!

paintedhingesSee this?  This is what the hardware in my kitchen looks like right now.  They been painted over multiple times and they are not so pretty to look at.  What to do, what to do.  I have found an amazing and easy solution!

crock pot magicFirst I went to VV and bought a crock pot for $5.  Then I added water, Nellie’s Washing Soda (which I buy locally at Go Green Baby) and my painted hinges.  I covered it with the lid and left them for 1/2 an hour.  When I came back the paint slid right off!  Amazing.  They are still not the prettiest hinges ever but I’m keeping with my “make it do” mantra so they stay.

shinynewhingesThey are so very shiny and new looking now after all.  This method of cleaning old hardware got me to thinking about all the old and paint splattered doorknobs and hinges around here.  So I took the hardware off my front door too and cleaned those too…

innerdoorhandle

The inside knob…

doorknoboutsideThe outside knob…

They cleaned up okay using this method but they still needed some scrubbing with a toothbrush and some brass cleaner.  And since I had the hardware off I should probably paint the door finally with some Chalk Paint in Emperor’s Silk Red (of course I should)…

door prep

The before…

finisheddoor

door and jacketsThe afters…see the gleaming “new” hardware???  Can you even believe it was THAT dirty?  Sort of embarrassing really…and now (also embarrassingly) I need to touch up the trim which the painters tape ripped off : (.

picture

I love my entryway now!  This is a Sarah Jane print that stays up all year (so I’ll always have a little bit of winter nearby)…

hooksI found these adorable hooks a few years ago at Kilborn’s my favourite store to get lost in…

There are still a few finishes that need to happen in this front hall, namely taking the old worn out linoleum floor (which has old asbestos backed linoleum underneath which means getting some professionals in here) and thrifting a table for the bottom of the stairs.  Good thing yard sale season is starting soon!

kitchen colourHere is a peek at the colour in the kitchen.  You can see the sorry cupboards in the corner waiting for their turn to be transformed.  In this pick the hallway is still the old taupe/pink/brown colour that I’ve hated since we moved in.  The colour has made such a difference already.  The kitchen is brighter and the white appliances looks so much better.

yellowshelfsurpriseI found a surprise under some old contact paper on the corner shelves…bright yellow, old school formica.  I love it!

So cupboards, flooring, and painting trim still to do…but it is all coming along.  I can’t wait until Jamie works his magic next week.  I promise to get the finished photos up as soon as it is finished.

What do you think so far?

Things are coming together…

Have you ever had a feeling of uncontrollable giddiness as you came to the end of making something?  I had that feeling a little bit when I was making my French Press Slippers this summer.  The feeling was overwhelming when I was making a fox mask for Mrs.Iverson’s birthday (it was borderline euphoric!).  And last night, as I finished another gift for the Mrs., I felt my heart pick up the pace a little, a satisfied grin spread across my face…I had to tell myself to slow it down so I didn’t make any mistakes but really wanted to see how it had turned out now!!!

I think this project had been in my head for so many years that that alone contributed my buoyant mood, to that feeling of anticipation.  I had saved this plain grey, wool sweater for almost 8 eight years with this project in mind.  It felt so good to finally make the first cut.  I loosely followed the Cozy Winter Hat pattern in this gem of a book, Little Things to Sew:

Oliver+S

It was a really easy pattern and sewing with an old wool sweater didn’t cause any issues thank goodness.

Sweaterhat

Sleeve

Sweaterpieces

Once I had cut out the wool pieces, I ironed some of this on the “wrong” side near the sides of the cheeks to add some stability while I did some embroidery work.

hat embroidery

I used a tiny bit of the embroidery pattern meant for these mitts from Scandinavian Needlecraft:

mitts

Once that was done,  I cut out the lining pieces.  I sewed the wool pieces together and added the ribbon.  Then I sewed the lining pieces together.  Next was sewing both the wool and the lining together.  I was incredibly nervous at this point and I was sure I would make a mistake so I read and reread the pattern…but then I did end up making a mistake and so I made my own “stamp” on the piece and it didn’t turn out too badly.

lining

In this picture you get an idea of what the lining fabric looks like.

finished hat

And here is the finished product!  It is too bad I couldn’t put it on a child so you could see what it looks like on.  After Solstice I’ll post one of the Mrs. wearing it I promise.  I keep going to sneak a peek at this one.  I’m so excited to have made it and I can’t wait to see her face when she opens it!

When Handmade goes wrong

I quite like making things to give as gifts.  It is always a delicate art.  First you must be sure you want to invest the time and that the final product will turn out well.  Second you must think carefully about who you are giving it to.  There is nothing more awkward than getting the feeling that the recipient doesn’t actually like the gift because a solid drawback to handmade is that you can’t return it.

This is a story about a handmade gift that the recipient, my father-in-law, liked just fine.  The problem was, I had made a really big mistake when putting this gift together.  Let’s see if you can spot it:

log carrier

What is it you ask?  Why it is a log carrier of course!  An absolutely chic log carrier if I do say so myself.

the embroideryThis embroidery took FOREVER!  In the end I just couldn’t do it on my machine and off I went to my friend Rebecca’s for help.  Man did it turn out great or what?  I was ever so pleased.

cute tag

Then there are the little details like this cute tag.  I was in love with this present and I couldn’t wait to give it.  Have you spotted my error yet?  Keep looking.

recycledjeans

And just why did I love this thing so much?  Well I thought it looked pretty great and it was made out of recycled materials.  In the picture above you can see that it is lined with denim from an old pair of jeans.  The cream coloured fabric on the front was left over from a couch slipcover I had made.  The thread was leftover from my bridesmaids dresses (13 years ago!!).  And finally the twill tape for the handles was from a grab bag at Value Village.  I was in recycled gift heaven.

folded

Can you tell now what is wrong?  Yep.  As beautiful as it turned out, it was utterly useless for carrying wood.  I had made it long and skinny.  It would likely only fit one or two logs (super long ones at that).  Sigh.  It was supposed to be folded the other way so that it was deeper and shorter.  I was entirely horrified and with no time left before the family gift exchange to fix it, I did what I had to do…I gave it to him and then took it right back offering promises to “fix it soon”.

oh dear

This is the way it was supposed to go.  Which means the embroidery is going the wrong way and so are the straps.  Not such as easy fix after all.   And do you know what is worse?  I still haven’t fixed it.  I’m going to do it tonight and give it to him again before Christmas so at least I don’t have to say it took me a year to fix it.  Wish me luck!

book

Oh and by the way, I found this project in this book.  I’ve now made a number of the projects in here and all of them have turned out so wonderfully!  I’ll share a few in the coming days.

What are some of your DYI disasters?