Mud Room Mayhem #2

Although this started out as a summer project, it is evident this baby is not going to be completed anytime soon…in fact, it may still be on the docket for next summer!

However, with some of the major work behind us, the room is at least a functioning space, far exceeding the total disfunction of the past. In fact, I am even okay with the projects that aren’t yet finished….it is not the most visually appealing, but we are so happy with the new layout and overall look of the space. Tim is back to working a crazy amount of over time, so it is a great time for me to practise patience!

Sherwin Williams "Rainwashed"I started this project by attacking the walls. I plastered/patched the many dings and then proceeded to prime and paint the walls and ceiling. The colour I chose was Sherwin Williams ~ Rainwashed. I know I have mentioned it before, but after being a die hard Benjamin Moore paint snob for many years, I have actually made a switch to Sherwin Williams and love it! I’m not saying I would never use BM again, but Sherwin Williams offers excellent coverage and they also have great sales several times a year.

Although the room is only about 8″ X 12″, this is one of the most difficult spaces I’ve ever painted. The ceilings are 20+ feet at the tallest point and to make matters worse, the highest point is directly above the two stair cases. I can honestly say I broke every safety rule when it came to painting those ceiling beams and trimming. I literally teetered on the top two rungs of the extension ladder, often reaching far beyond what was even remotely safe. Tim would walk in the room and cringe from below, but luckily I came through unscathed! The transformation from dingy brown to light and bright was truly remarkable. I even managed to convince Tim to let me paint out the oak beams…Win for Me!!

BEFORE & AFTER: Painting

BEFORE & AFTER: Reclaimed Wide-Planked Oak Hardwood Floors

The next step was to remove the old stairs and landing. This immediately made the room feel larger! Before installing new stairs, Tim laid the hardwood flooring. I had purchased some reclaimed wide-planked oak floors through Kijiji for $150 about 5 years ago. I purchased it knowing the planks would be perfect for my “someday” mud room. Tim installed the floors and then we rented a floor sander from Home Depot to remove the old layers of stain and urethane.

Once the floors were installed, we were ready to attack the feature wall. As mentioned previously, there is only one wall in the space that is free of obstructions (windows, doors, stairs). We opted to create a feature wall by installing shiplap. I must say, finding shiplap in Manitoba is not that easy, but I did end up finding a small lumber business outside the city that would custom cut shiplap for me. It wasn’t expensive and was well worth the trip to pick it up. Tim installed the boards and then I proceeded to prime and paint the wall “Simply White”. This is a Benjamin Moore colour and the white I use on all of my projects. Of course, Sherwin Williams will also make the colour for you. I absolutely love how the wall turned out! The photo below shows the wall before the priming and painting had been done.

Shiplap feature wall

Shiplap feature wall and hardwood floors.

Stay tuned for Mudroom Mayhem #3 and find out how Tim’s custom stairs turned out….this is hands down my favourite feature in our evolving mud room!!

 

 

 

Mud Room Mayhem

Yes, when I say mayhem, I really mean it! Our mud room had been the most disfunctional space since we bought the house in 2008. The idea of having a mud room is glorious, but this space had been difficult to figure out and it took along time to actually have a vision for the room. In addition to the poor design, the room was also poorly constructed and we knew it would entail lots of hard work to fix-up the endless list of problems. It is for this reason, that our mud room is the last room in our house to be touched (other than our unfinished basement, which at this point still seems like a pipe dream).

Although the room is a good size at 8′ X 12′, with beautiful vaulted ceilings stretching up to 20 plus feet at the highest point, there are so many structural fixtures that the space is almost impossible to use effectively. There is one unobstructed 8 foot wall, but the garage door swings open onto it and a large 6 foot window butts up against it on the opposite side. Further down from the garage door is a set of cement stairs that lead to the basement, so that wall really only has about a 3 foot section between the door and the top stair and it is essentially a walk way. Beside the basement stairs, on the wall opposite the plain 8 foot wall is another staircase that leads to the kitchen. The original stairs had a landing at the top (junk collection center) and a turn in the staircase, so basically, the entire wall is stairs! The last wall has the window (previously mentioned) and the door to the back yard as well as the large landing at the top of the kitchen stairs. With so many “openings” to deal with, you can see how difficult it was to make the area work as an efficient “mud room”.

Here is a very rough floor plan of the space. You can see how wonky the stairs are and how poorly planned out the room is.Mud room floor plan

On top of the structural issues, the workmanship was lousy and all of the moldings were cheap, poorly aligned and nothing was square. To make matters worse, the fir floors had been painted and we were almost certain lead paint had been used, so these too would need to be replaced.

So, it is from this disaster of a room that our “things to do list” evolved. This job was one of the biggest we’ve taken on with our tasks including:

  • demo and remove kitchen stairs
  • replace stairs with a simple set that would go straight down to back door (without the turn)
  • install railings for the stairs and around basement stairwell
  • lay reclaimed oak hardwood floors, sand, stain and urethane
  • demo all baseboards and moldings
  • trim down all of the window and door casings in an attempt to square them
  • buy, cut, install and paint new moldings and baseboards
  • paint oak ceiling beams
  • prime and paint walls
  • purchase and install shiplap on main 8 foot wall
  • prime and paint shiplap wall
  • build up the basement stairwell walls to cover exposed concrete
  • figure out what to do with the basement stairs as far as paint or covering (still not sure)
  • paint all doors
  • attempt to incorporate as many reclaimed pieces as possible into the overall design of the space – it became my mission to use leftover crown molding, casing and furniture pieces that we already had on hand (My vision was not to create a mismatched mess, but rather to effectively use what we already had on hand and declutter our garage and basement).
  • design a space that will be visually appealing while providing our family with adequate storage for outdoor clothing, shoes and backpacks
  • various DIY projects that will be incorporated into the final design of the room

I consider myself to be pretty handy, but this room relied heavily on my husband. There were way too many “construction” types of projects that were more than I could take on. I felt really bad about this because I was so dependent on Tim to do so many of the bigger jobs and yet it was me who had the summer off to work on projects. For Tim, it was a super busy summer. He worked more overtime than ever before and on the few days he had off, he spent endless hours trying to pull this mud room project together. It soon became apparent, that unlike most of our summer projects, there was no way this would be done before I returned to work in September. Despite the slow progress and a never ending list of things to finish, I am super pleased with how much we got done with the limited time Tim has had to work on it….I am so lucky to have him! We will continue to push through and hope to complete it in bits and pieces over the next few months.

I will attempt to share the project at various stages of completion, but for starters….here’s what it looked like before we started.

Puppy LOVE!

HersheyThe holidays are flying by, but luckily we still have one month to go! Summer is generally the time that I plough through my giant list of things to do, but not this year…..July has been spent training and caring for our new puppy!

After approximately 4 years of debating the pros and cons of getting a dog…we finally did it and couldn’t be happier! Tim and I always wanted a dog and of course the kids have been begging us for years, but the truth is we were terrified of the commitment. Although our kids insisted they would take care of a dog, their track record with past pets (fish, toad, crayfish- yuck!!) would state otherwise. I believed they’d help out, but the reality was… it would be Tim and I taking on the responsibility. We knew that we didn’t want to be dog owners that don’t walk their dog or leave him/her kennelled for hours on end. I finally decided I was ready and it was time…we needed some positive energy in our home and what better way to bring that in, than with the joy and excitement of a new puppy! Tim was still hesitant, but left the final decision up to me. The kids and I went to meet the one remaining puppy from the litter and absolutely fell in love. I must say, I NEVER in a million years could have anticipated falling in love with a dog. I am now officially a dog person! I could never understand when someone said they had to get home to the dog or spent oodles of cash on vet bills and yet, here we are obsessed with the health and well being of our precious Morkie-Poo ~ “Hershey”! Although there are times, when I feel tied down by the commitment (especially now when we are still training him), 95% of the time, I am thrilled to take him for a walk, play with him or just cuddle. My shortfall is easily consumed with the abounding  love and affection of Tim and the kids!

I honestly can’t believe what he has brought to our family. He is calming, funny, affectionate, playful and a smile maker! There is plenty of research supporting the positive impact of owning a dog on both physical and mental health. Owning a dog can reduce stress, cholesterol, high blood pressure, risk of cardiovascular disease and help relieve depression and anxiety. There is also evidence stating that infants that are exposed to dogs develop stronger immune systems and are less prone to allergies. If you’ve been tossing around the idea of getting a dog, check out these two articles to learn more about what a dog can bring to your home…. extending far beyond the love and companionship you’d expect.

We chose to go with a smaller breed and one that was non-shedding, as I knew the dog hair would drive me crazy. We definitely consider “Hershey” when planning any outing, but know that this will be less restricting once he is trained and can be left alone for longer periods of time. We chose to kennel train him and that has been wonderful. His kennel is his safe place and it helps us to keep track of him throughout the day/night when he’s sleeping. This also helps to make bathroom training easier as he always “needs to go” after a nap. The “cons” list seems to have dwindled in our eyes, but those things that remain would really be limited to the occasional inconvenience when you need to be out or are trying to tackle a big project and would prefer not to be interrupted with “puppy business”, as well as the financial expenses associated with owing a dog (food, toys, kennel, bed, blankets, treats, leash, collar, vet bills, etc.). The bottom line is that “it is all worth it!”  Tim and I took a long time to make our decision and most of our concerns were “logically based”, but you can’t possibly calculate in the positive emotional impact that a puppy has on your family life. It is so much more than a point on your “pros” list ~ a puppy literally has the power to change the dynamics and relationships within a family. Hershey brings joy to our home everyday! This positive energy is created by observing and interacting with him, as well as sharing in the stories told by other family members experiences. You have new topics for conversation, share many “ooh’s”, “aww’s” and laughs and have far less time to focus on the issues of life.  For us, it feels like it has allowed us to take our eyes off that which can sometimes drag you down, and instead direct your focus on the fun and playful nature of a new puppy.

Getting a puppy was truly life changing for our family and the best decision we ever made! If you are sitting on the fence and like us are having trouble making the commitment ~ take the plunge and just do it! I promise any compromises will be worth it!

Yummy Chia Seed Breakfast Porridge

Chia Seed Breakfast PorridgeI’ve struggled with digestive issues for most of my adult life.  As I’ve gotten older, it seems like a constant battle just to maintain some sort of regularity. I am always assessing what works and what doesn’t and analyzing the variables that may have contributed to my frequent states of constipation. It is very frustrating (and uncomfortable) to say the least! I do take supplements when desperate, but prefer to try and manage through diet and exercise. Sometimes I feel like my whole life revolves around choosing foods that “work” and I’m embarrassed to say that “poop talks” now seem like normal conversation.

Over the years, I have tried many different foods, supplements and diets to help me stay regular and although I have found success at various times in my life, it always seems to evolve into a routine that only works temporarily. In the past, Fibre 1 cereal was always my “go to” breakfast because my digestive system seemed to really like it. I would double-up on the recommended serving size and consume my entire daily fibre goal in one shot. Although I still enjoy it, I found that over time, it became less effective.

I recently tried a simple recipe recommended to me by a friend. I have never been much of a porridge lover, mostly because I’m fussy when it comes to certain textures.  For me, porridge had to be prepared just right in order for it not to trigger my gag reflex. So, when my friend suggested I try eating chia seeds for breakfast in a porridge-like recipe, I was skeptical. In fact, it took me at least a year before I actually gave it a try. Feeling desperate to get my digestive system back on track, I decided to test her recipe out and was surprised that I enjoyed it! The texture hasn’t bothered me and I really do think it has been instrumental in helping me to become more regular once again. It is the perfect way to start your day as it is not only high in fibre, but also a great source or protein.

Chia is the new nutrition powerhouse on the block! It’s 100% gluten free, and high in omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants, too.It’s a great addition to any diet for the health benefits, but particularly helpful in gluten free and vegan baking as a both binder and as an egg substitute. (Harris Whole Health)

Chia Seed Breakfast Porridge

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • cinnamon to taste (a generous amount ~ but I don’t measure)
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • fresh or frozen blueberries (or fruit of your choice)
  • 2 to 4 T. of Cracknola (optional, but necessary if you ask me ~ AMAZING homemade grain-free granola recipe)

Place chia seeds in a cereal bowl and sprinkle with cinnamon. Stir to coat. Pour the boiling water over the seeds and let stand for 3 minutes. Stir well, as it will be lumpy. (The chia seeds will break open and gel in the hot water.) Add the blueberries and Cracknola for extra flavour. Enjoy!

What is really great about this recipe is that the main ingredient is chia seeds which are not only gluten free, but also considered a superfood because of their high nutritional value. They are not only high in fibre, but also packed with many other nutrients and offer significant health benefits. Dr. Axe has written a comprehensive article on the health advantages linked to chia seeds including anti-aging properties, digestive support, heart health, energy and metabolism booster, diabetes support, weight loss, cancer and dental health. Check out the nutrition profile from Dr. Axe’s article ~ 9 Chia Seeds Benefits + Side Effects:

Chia Seed Nutrition Profile

The reason chia seeds are so beneficial is due to them being rich in fiber, omega-3 fats, protein, vitamins and minerals.

For example, one ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds contain about: (1)

  • 137 calories
  • 12.3 grams carbohydrates
  • 4.4 grams protein
  • 8.6 grams fat
  • 10.6 grams fiber
  • 0.6 milligram manganese (30 percent DV)
  • 265 milligrams phosphorus (27 percent DV)
  • 177 milligrams calcium (18 percent DV)
  • 1 milligram zinc (7 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligram copper (3 percent DV)
  • 44.8 milligrams potassium (1 percent DV)

Chia seeds also contain essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic and linoleic acid; mucin; strontium’ vitamins A, B, E and D; and minerals, including sulphur, iron, iodine, magnesium, manganese, niacin and thiamine; and they’re a rich source of antioxidants.

The benefits are so numerous it seems almost criminal not to be incorporating them in your diet. They’ve been a staple in my pantry for a few years now, but up until recently I only sprinkled them on salads or added them to my smoothies. This is the first time I used chia seeds as a main ingredient in a recipe and I’m so pleased with the results. Check out this short video of Dr. Axe’s to learn more about chia seeds:

For more great information and recipe ideas, check out Dr. Mercola’s site as well.

Let me know if you decide to give this recipe a try. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I am finding that with teenagers in the house, now more than ever, I need to have fresh muffins available for a quick snack or lunch addition. This muffin recipe is a staple in our house. They are super moist and so delicious!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup of oil (or 1/3 cup apple sauce for a healthier version)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Method:

In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg and stir in the milk, oil and vanilla. Once combined, add in the mashed bananas and stir again.

Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are moist and just combined. Do not over mix. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.

Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Cut small wax paper squares to sit in the base of each cup (about 1 1/4″ squares). I learned this trick from my mom! The little squares help to prevent the bottoms from sticking and help the muffins to release from the pan easily. Divide the batter among the 12 cups and bake for 18 to 22 minutes.

Once cooled, remove the wax paper squares from the bottoms and place in a sealed container or zipper bag to store. I will often wrap them individually in plastic wrap and pop them in the freezer. This keeps the muffins fresh and makes them easy to grab and go!

Click here for a Printer Friendly Version of this recipe.

 

Simple Mantel Make-Over

We recently repainted our living room and gave it a completely new look. Although I love the character of our home, that much oak can be a bit overwhelming at times, especially with its orangish tone. I would have no problem if the wood was stained a deeper colour, but unfortunately it is all that lighter orange colour. I used to dream of stripping the wood and re-staining it a nice deep brown, but over the years I have come to realize that idea is nothing short of crazy. We have too much wood and the job would be way too big, especially when you consider all of the work on the coffered ceilings alone! So I have given up on that idea 🙁

However,  when we were redoing the living room, I really felt the fireplace needed a lift! I tossed around the idea of painting it out white, but Tim didn’t like the idea and I wasn’t completely sold on ruining the original brick either. It is super low maintenance and not horrible. In the end, I convinced him to let me sand and stain the mantel. It wasn’t a big job (although we did have some difficulty getting the stain to take at first) and I thought the pay off was huge. The darker stain just made the fireplace look more unified and matched the dark brick much better than the original stain. I had also planned to remove the mirror from above, but surprisingly, it didn’t seem to bug me as much with the new stained mantel.

I must admit that I did put a bit more effort into “staging” the mantel as well. To do this, I actually did some research and came across some really good information. Among the best is the information I found on Kylie M. Interiors. She goes through a 4 step process and it really helped me to create a look that I finally feel I can live with. Here is a quick summary of her suggestions.

  1. Find the center of your mantel and choose a “key” piece to anchor your design
  2. Decide on a colour palette and be sure to consider incorporating different surface finishes and textures
  3. Choose to set up your mantel symmetrically (exactly the same on both sides) or balanced (use different items but create a balanced look at both ends by making sure they have the same “visual weight”)
  4. Create decorative triangles by setting up your items in such a way that “triangles” are created by using varying heights of objects.
Staged Mantel

I tried to create a balanced look using visual triangles made with groups of accessories I already had around the house.

Clearly, I am no designer, but Kylie really does a great job of explaining the steps to setting up a mantel and also provides some great links. By the time you read through her post and check out the various examples, you will be well on your way to creating a great look. When I started mine, I wasn’t really sure what I would end up with on the mantel, but in the end, I found everything I needed right here at home. It was just a matter a finding pieces I already had and then setting them up to create a look I was happy with. The only piece that was new was the metal “R”. I had picked that up several months ago on a clearance sale for $2 (regular $14 I think). I couldn’t resist it, even though I had no idea where I was going to put it. So it too was something I already had at home and I actually like the contrast of the white against the brick. Now that I know the look I am going for, it will be much easier to keep my eyes open and find the perfect pieces to really create the look I want. I think that I might like a larger “key” piece and may even incorporate a few smaller framed pictures, for a layered look. Overall I am pleased with how this turned out and have a better understanding of what I may need to purchase in the future. I am especially thrilled with the darker stain ~ a simple fix and yet seemed to make a huge difference (at least to me!)

Upcycled Nanaimo Bars? I Can’t Believe They’re Gluten Free!

Nanaimo Bars have been a favourite dainty of mine, since I was a child. Over the years, I have tasted many versions of it ~ both homemade as well as store-bought. I have attempted to make them several times, but must confess that my success rate has not been great. I don’t think I’m alone in my struggle to achieve the perfect base layer. I often find the base to be too dry and crumbly. There is nothing as frustrating as trying to cut a dainty that crumbles apart when you go to serve it. I also found that many times the crust actually tasted dry and lacked flavour as well. I always prefer home baking over store-bought, but eventually gave up on the idea of ever finding the perfect recipe. Eventually, I was served a piece of Nanaimo that seemed to have the perfect base. It was more fudgey and served up beautifully. When I asked for the recipe, I was extended a smile and told it was the “Robin Hood” box mix. I was sold and proceeded to buy the mix and make it as one of the dainties on my annual Christmas baking list. Sadly, Robin Hood discontinued their Nanaimo Mix a few years ago and so I simply omitted it from my baking list. This year I embarked on a mission to find a recipe for the base that would be similar to that of the mix. I googled and searched, but was unable to come up with a recipe. It was then that I decided to come up with my own. I was shocked when my very first attempt came out not only delicious, but held together and served perfectly. I was so excited I just had to share. In addition to it meeting my high expectations…my version is also GLUTEN FREE. I didn’t really intend to create a gluten-free Nanaimo Bar recipe, but as I worked on the recipe, I quickly realized that none of the ingredients I used contained gluten…bonus! So, for all you gluten-free people, here is a delicious gluten-free recipe that does not make you feel like you are sacrificing flavour or texture ~ in my opinion it’s better than some of the more traditional recipes! Obviously, not everyone will agree ~ but I really love my new base recipe which is more like a fudge.  I can’t wait for others to try it and let me know if they like it as much as I do!

Incredible Gluten Free Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients:

Base:

  • 2 1/4 cups semi-sweet (or dark) chocolate chips
  • 3/8 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon of *thick and creamy coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup of medium shredded coconut

Filling:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Bird’s Custard Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons cream + 2 teaspoons
  • 2 cups of icing sugar

Top Layer:

  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (or 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate squares)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Line a 9″ X 9″ square pan with parchment paper (or wax paper) and be sure it extends up over two of the sides so you have something to hold onto to remove the set dainties
  2. BASE:  Melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe dish. (My microwave has a setting for melting chocolate, so I would do it in very short increments of 15 seconds or so and stir in between, if you don’t have a setting.) The chocolate does not need to melt completely in the microwave it will continue to melt as you stir it. DO NOT over heat.  Once melted, stir in the coconut milk and vanilla. Finally, add the coconut and walnuts to the mixture and stir well to combine.
  3. Spread the chocolate base mixture into the parchment lined pan. Chill in the freezer while you make the yellow filling, but do not allow to set completely or the two layers will separate when you serve.
  4. FILLING:  To make the yellow filling, cream the four filling ingredients together and beat until light. Spread over the chilled bottom layer. Transfer to the fridge to cool while you prepare the top layer. It should set about 10 minutes or so.
  5. TOP LAYER:  Melt the chocolate chips (or squares) and coconut oil in the microwave as in step 2. Once all lumps have been melted, immediately spread an even layer over the yellow filling. I will often spread quickly with a knife and then slide my pan back and forth on the counter to create a smooth even layer, but you have to work fast so the chocolate doesn’t begin to set before you do this.
  6. Transfer the finished Nanaimo Bar to the fridge to set the chocolate. Monitoring the setting is key ~ you want the chocolate to set enough that it is no longer gooey, but not so much that it will crack when you cut it. I usually set my timer and check it after 10 minutes and then about every 5 minutes until the top looks “just set”. I then remove it from the fridge and score the top layer. You may or may not want to slice right through to the bottom, but you want to score through the top layer so that it will not break and separate from the filling when you go to serve it. When I go to cut it into squares, I pull the entire piece out of the pan using the edges of the parchment paper to remove it. This allows me to cut nice even squares.
  7.  It can be stored in either the freezer or refrigerator. The freezer will give it more of a candy bar consistency while the fridge will make it more like fudge.
 
*The “thick and creamy coconut milk” is made by keeping the can of coconut milk in the fridge, so that the water and cream separate. When you open the can, discarded half the water and blended the remaining water with the milk to create a thick, creamy coconut milk.
*I substituted 1 tablespoon of cream with the thick and creamy coconut milk in the filling layer and loved it. I was tempted to try the whole amount, but didn’t. I might try that next time!

This might seem like several steps, but it is really quite quick and easy to whip up. If you decide to give it a try, please let me know how it turns out for you. I hope others enjoy it as much as we did!

Vintage Ashtray Upcylce

vintage ashtray

Here are a few shots of the original ashtray. It was quite tarnished and beat-up.

vintage ashtray

Beautiful marble inlay and lots of detailed work in the metal.

I was looking for a very small (12″ or smaller) side table to fit in the tiny space between my sofa and wall. The couch sits on an angle and there really isn’t much room, but I wanted a little spot to place a drink. Having no luck what so ever, I decided I needed to think outside the box. I started brainstorming possible bases for a tiny table and quickly thought of a vintage floor standing ashtray. I picked this oval topvintage ashtray up for $20 off of Kijiji and was confident it would be perfect. It was one of the easiest upcycing projects ever. I removed the screws that held the handle and twisted the ashtray from the base to dismantle it.  This allowed me to remove the small marble piece near the base, clean the stand and then spray paint it all without having to tape off the marble. I chose a basic white spray paint and gave it one coat. For the top, I picked up an oval piece of wood with routered edges from Michael’s and used the 40% off coupon so it only cost me about $10.

I used a fine grain sand paper to ensure the wood had a smooth surface before applying two coats of paint. I recently bought the Benjamin Moore Advance furniture paint in my favourite colour ~ Simply White. The paint goes on and cleans up like latex, but dries like oil paint, so you don’t need to clear coat it. It also has a “flooding” element, so the coat looks nice and smooth. After painting the top, I wasn’t happy with the shade of white on the base of the ashtray stand, so decided to give it a quick top coat of the Simply White using a roller and it too dried beautifully.

To attach the top, I simply placed screws in the holes that previously held the handle in place and screwed on the new table top. I love the detail on the pedestal and base. One of my favourite upcylces! So cute and the perfect size for this space.

Surprise Living Room Make-Over

We had been in dire need of new living room furniture for well over a year. I was having a very hard time making decisions about what to buy. I loved the idea of a sectional and have always wanted one, but the reality is that our space is just not that workable. In addition to deciding on a style, I was also struggling with leather vs. fabric. We have always had leather and our family is very accustom to the easy care and wipe-ability of leather. Like a sectional, I have also always wanted white furniture. When making a big purchase you want to make sure you are getting it right and thus we shopped and browsed for months on end with no decisions being made. Finally, when our sofa was destined for the dump, we had to make some decisions.

The first conclusion Tim and I agreed on was that the living room/dining room swap that we made a few years ago was really not working for our family. The larger of the two rooms is located in the center of the house and just off the kitchen while the second smaller room is located just to the right of the front entrance. This room is quite lovely with French doors, a wall of windows and a fireplace. The trouble with it is that with so much going on, there really are not many options for room configuration and at times this is frustrating. We suspected that a sectional would never be an option in this space and so approximately two years ago, we moved our living room (fireplace room) to the larger room just off the kitchen. At first, we loved it. It allowed Tim and I to work in the kitchen and be more engaged with the kids if they were in the living room. Our home is far from open concept, but the close proximity seemed to help. However, over time, we realized that other sacrifices were being made. It seemed like our busy schedules, coupled with the dining room’s more remote location led to more and more meals taking place in front of the television. Setting the table seemed like a big job now that everything needed to be transported across the house. We also found that the “kitchen” noises often interfered with the television and the dishwasher was often not put on until bedtime. Finally, we found that the wood burning fireplace, one of our favourite features in our house, had sadly sat unused since we made the switch. Once we decided to move the rooms back, the other decisions were also easier to make. Using our old furniture and a measuring tape, we tried many variations of furniture arrangements and came to the conclusion that a sectional would never work in that space. Since we both had our hearts set on getting one, we decided to go with a chaise sofa and chair/ottoman combo instead. Although we felt this would work, we weren’t 100% convinced it would fit properly into the room. We decided to save ourselves a few thousand dollars and go with fabric, so that we could live with it for a few years before committing thousands of dollars more to a “leather” decision. It seemed like a good compromise.  In the end we went with a darker almost charcoal gray even though I really wanted something light. Sometimes you have to consider not only your desires, but also the function of the furniture. We do not have a living room and family room or even a basement hangout for the kids. Needless to say our furniture gets lots of use. I can be pretty uptight and I knew that the change to fabric was already going to cause me some stress. The sofa covers are all washable, but the reality is that I think white or even something very light would become an ongoing battle to maintain. We opted for what we thought would work best for our family.

Feeling excited to set-up the new furniture, Tim and I unpacked and assembled our new Ikea sofa. (I never actually thought I would purchase a sofa from Ikea, but I was quite taken with the Ektorp series. I loved that there were several colour options, the style seemed both traditional and contemporary at the same time – if that’s even possible and surprisingly, it is super comfortable!)  After the months of indecisiveness, I’m sure Tim almost blew a gasket, when he saw the look on my face once everything was set up and arranged in the room. Yep…you guessed it….I hated it. Not the sofa or the style, but rather how it looked in the room. Our new sofa looked more like a denim blue against the light green walls (Castleton Mist) than gray….Yikes!  I could see it in Tim’s eyes “Oh no…here we go again!” Although he thought we should consider taking the covers back and swapping for a different colour choice, I was convinced the grey would be perfect once everything else in the room was changed! Yes, we would need to paint (wasn’t anticipating that) and the side tables don’t look right. Too bad the curtains will no longer match. Oh and that fireplace has always kind of bugged me! Ugh! I really was not planning a room make-over. Our plans included a new sofa/chair and coffee table. The end. I was prepared to refinish a coffee table because I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be able to find anything new that fit with the look I was going for, but that would have been a simple sand/paint job.

So, although there are a few things left to finish, I already love the space and am not even worrying about the few remaining projects….I’ll get to them eventually. So far, we’ve managed to paint the room, strip and stain the mantel, build a tiny side table from a vintage ashtray and sew new curtains. Believe or not, I found the perfect coffee table on Kijiji and someone else had already done the work – score! I still need to paint the cabinet that the TV is sitting on and want to shorten the little half-moon table by a few inches, but other than that we’re done.

The light gray walls (Benjamin Moore ~Stonington Grey)look fine with the oak trim (despite my reservations). Besides the limited wall space for setting up this room, it is also a difficult space because of the limited light. Although it boasts a wall of windows and two additional high windows on the fireplace wall, it is not a bright room. It is north facing and really only gets late afternoon sun. So in choosing a new colour, I not only had to consider a colour to coordinate with the furniture and strong oak presence in the room, but also the limited light. I must admit, I’ve never really paid any attention to LRV (light reflective value), but for this room I did my homework. There is nothing worse than picking a colour that you love on the swatch, but hate when you actually apply it to the walls in your space. Paint colours can look completely different depending on the lighting in your space. For this room, I chose a gray with an LRV of 59 which meant the colour would pretty much stay true to the swatch in my space. For more information on how to choose paints that will work well in your space, check out this article on Kylie M. Interiors. I found it really helpful.

As a side note – I have been a Benjamin Moore paint snob for many years now, but I decided to try Sherwin Williams Duration for this job. Their paint was 40% off and I had heard good things about it. I loved it! The application was beautiful and I even hesitated to do a second coat. My living room is about 17 and 12 and I did two coats with one gallon and the first coat was almost perfect even though it was covering green. Very impressed! (They can make colours from other companies, so I used a Benjamin Moore colour, but had it made with the Duration paint.)

Scrumptious Pumpkin Poke Cake Dessert

Scrumptious Pumpkin Poke Cake Dessert

Sorry, no great pictures of this dessert! I snapped this one quickly before putting on the plastic wrap and taking it to work.

If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you already know that I love pumpkin! There is no better time than the fall to try out a new pumpkin recipe and this fall was no exception. In fact, this recipe is so yummy I’ve made it twice and can’t wait for an opportunity to make it again!

Let me begin by saying that this recipe was adapted from Jennifer W.’s recipe Better Than Sex Pumpkin Dessert on Key Ingredient, so suffice to say…it’s delicious!

I’m sure the original recipe is fabulous…. I only changed it because you can’t buy Heath Bits here and I prefer homemade caramel sauce. Here is my version.

Pumpkin Poke Cake Dessert

Yield 8 – 12

Ingredients:

  • 1   box spice cake mix
  • 2  cups pumpkin puree (be careful not to buy Pumpkin Pie Filling)
  • 1   14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1   tub Cool Whip (I bought the larger size and had some left over, even with a generous layer)
  • ½ bag SKOR Bits (original recipe calls for Heath Bits)
  • 1   batch of Ree Drummond’s homemade Caramel Sauce .  The original recipe calls for a jar of Caramel Sundae Topping, but it is worth the tiny bit of extra effort to make your own ~ so good!

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven 350º and grease a 9 X 13″ cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the cake mix and pumpkin puree until a smooth batter forms.
  3. Pour the batter into the pan and bake according to the directions on the cake mix box.
  4. Test with a toothpick to ensure it is cooked. (Toothpick should come out clean when poked into the cake.)
  5. Let cool for about 10 minutes after baking. Using the bottom of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over the top of the cake. (The first time I made this, the holes were nice and uniform, the second time they seemed a bit gooey and I was worried the cake wasn’t cooked even though I’d tested it. Don’t panic, mine tasted great both times.)
  6. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cake and spread as is necessary to fill the holes.
  7. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake from the fridge and spread a generous layer of cool whip over top of cake. Sprinkle the SKOR bits on top and drizzle with caramel sauce. Reserve the balance of the sauce to serve over each individual piece.
  9. Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours or overnight, if possible.

This recipe is super easy and a real crowd pleaser! Enjoy and thanks Jennifer!

If you love pumpkin as much as I do, why not check out some of my other recipes!pumpkin cheesecakePumpkin Pie Cake Dessertoatmeal pumpkin sandwich cookie

pumpkin cookiespumpkin pancakesPumpkin LoafPumpkin Salted Caramel Blondies with Glaze