Banquette Face-Lift

Eden had this old banquette in her room as a craft/homework table. It was a great space for her and her friends to put on nail polish and do crafts, but had really taken a beating over the years. When we did her bedroom make-over, she wanted to replace it with something more comfy, so we decided to swap the futon that sat in the landing outside the kids’ rooms with the banquette. The space is rarely used, so it didn’t really make a difference to the rest of the family, but it was in serious need of a fresh coat of paint and some new upholstery on the cushions. (The BEFORE shot doesn’t really capture how run down it was looking as it’s an old picture. I had taken some pictures before and during the project, but we’ve had computer problems this fall and some how the pictures got lost in the process.)

I was actually pretty excited to do this job because it was long overdue and not a difficult one to get off the To Do list. We inherited this with a previous home we bought and I am pretty sure it was handmade by someone, so I can’t say the finishing details are anything to brag about. When we first moved it into Eden’s room 7 years ago, Tim added beadboard to the front base and it really gave it more of a finished look. I had originally put white vinyl on the seats as opposed to fabric. Although white may not have been the best colour choice, it matched her room nicely and was wipeable (is that even a word??).

For the updated version, I simply prepped the surface by filling holes/nicks, sanding, priming and painting. It was white on white, so it didn’t require much work. The back panels were screwed on and the bench seats just sit on the base with wood slats to keep them from moving. This also gives us plenty of storage inside the benches which is a nice bonus.  The re-upholstery took no more than an hour and a half. I basically used a screw driver to remove the staples that secured the vinyl. (I left the numerous other layers of fabric on and just added the new material over top.)  Four of the pieces were simple rectangles, so they were super easy to cover. The fifth piece is more of an L shape with an angled edge in the corner. Although a bit trickier, it still wasn’t very hard to do.  I used the old vinyl pieces as a template to cut the new pieces out. The new fabric has a geometric pattern, so I had to be carefull and ensure that the pattern was sitting “square” on the each of the pieces I was covering. The final step was to secure the fabric on with a staple gun.  I then screwed the backboards in place and replaced the bench seats.

The finished bench looks great, but of course, the table now looks a bit worse for ware. I might eventually paint the table top to freshed in up. I think plain black would look sharp. When we owned our restaurant, we painted our counters and table tops to match the decor. Of course we also added several coats of urethane for durability, but they stood up to the restaurant wear and tear with no problem, so painting would be a good option.

It has been a super busy fall with back to school and the kids heavy into sports, but it feels so great to get a project done.

Dutch Elm Disease: The Destruction of a Neighborhood

BEFORE Dutch Elm Disease

Just updated the post with this photo. A great shot of our street in July 2012.

I have to admit, I’m no “tree-hugger”. I like camping and appreciate the beauty of nature, but by no means consider myself to be any sort of activist. However, today I can honestly say….I’m saddened to the core. I fell in love with our street long before we ever bought a house here. The heritage homes were beautiful, but what captivated me most was the incredible canopy of hundred year old trees that lined the street. It was simply gorgeous in the summer when the leaves of the huge trees were fully grown and the expanse of green foliage created a tunnel-like effect when looking down the street. In fact, I remember telling Tim, “Someday I want to live on Machray.”

Although I have oodles of pictures, it amazed me that I had few that really captivated the beauty of the street. I guess that is often how life goes, you don’t truly appreciate what is before you until you lose it. I managed to find a few pictures that give a bit of an example of how our street looked clothed in the beauty of those huge trees.

Over that past few years, we’ve watched as the city has “tagged” the odd tree here and there, indicating it has been infected with Dutch Elm Disease. Eventually, the crews would come and remove the tree, to the disappointment of the entire block. However, this fall things took a huge turn for the worse.  We watched as tree after tree was tagged and how the process seemed to quicken from months to mere weeks. Last week, on my day off, the usual silence of our street was disrupted by the sounds of chain saws and falling trees.  I would have prefered to be at work.  It was bad enough to come home at the end of a work day to see which trees had been removed, but clearly the city was trying to beat the snow and seemed to be on a mission. I listened as the chain saws fired up, felt the shake as those near our home hit the ground and looked on with a deep sadness as our street evolved into something more reminiscent of a war zone.

One of the workers said our street had been one of the hardest hit. I am not surprised by this news. The initial length of time between tagging and removal seemed like a long drawn out process ~ with plenty of time to for the disease to spread from tree to tree. Although they are now working diligently to remove the infected trees in a timely manner, it is much too late for our beautiful street.

The canopy that first drew us here has been stripped away and the dreary day seemed almost fitting to the mood on the street. A piece of our neighborhood is gone, but our spirits won’t be broken. We are blessed to have such awesome neighbors and although it will never be as beautiful as it was, we can not let the absence of trees ruin the street we have grown to love and appreciate so much. I know deep down it is not the trees that make a neighborhood, but rather the people who live here. I was actually surprised by my own feelings as I watched it all unfold, it feels like such a significant loss. Despite this,  we will continue to love this street we call home. Hip-Hip Machray!!

Meals in Minutes ~ Well kind of!

Sausage & White Bean SoupOur schedule, like so many other families, is crazy busy. I’m finding it harder and harder to stay on top of things and one of the areas I feel like I’m failing is in providing my family with good quality meals on a regular basis. I would say we eat well most of the time, but lately I’ve been feeling as though we are having more last-minute pulled together meals and I’m just not satisfied. Last weekend, I decided to find more slow cooker meals because I find it so much less stressful to come home at the end of the day and have our meal ready or at the very least close to it. In my search, I ended up on a great site called Who Needs a Cape (love the name). On the site, Katie shares how to make 40 slow cooker freezer meals in 4 hours. No way! I was intrigued and spent quite a bit of time exploring the site. What fascinated me the most was that I could pre-make the meals, freeze them and then just dump them in the slow cooker without having to spend time preparing the slow cooker meals in the morning before work. It almost seemed to good to be true.

In my reading, I discovered, that she also posted different options including how to make 7 meals in one hour. This seemed like a great place to start because some of the larger meal plans (30 and 40) involve doubling recipes and making enough for two separate meals. This makes great sense if your family likes the recipe, but if not, it could be a big waste of money. (I was also a bit concerned about the recipes tasting watered down because in my experience, freezing sometimes does that.)  So, on my last day off, I spent the morning grocery shopping (using the shopping lists she provides on the site – so great!!) I got home at noon and by 12:10, I was making the first slow cooker freezer meal. I can’t say I was super organized. I was taking ingredients out as I needed them and labelling bags as I went. In the end it took me an hour and half to complete all 7 of her meals. However, I was “on a roll” and ended up making a few other recipes that I had found on-line. In the end, I made 13 meals in 3 1/2 hours. I was so excited (and exhausted), but the true test will be when the meals are served to my family. I must say I was pretty proud of my accomplishment and the fact that I tried 11 new recipes in one day seemed like one of the craziest things I’ve ever attempted in the kitchen.
Last week, we ate the first slow cooker freezer meal and it was a huge success! The whole family gave the Sausage & White Bean Slow Cooker Soup a thumbs up. I didn’t adapt the recipe at all, but in the future I’ll be sure to double it. The only complaint was that there wasn’t any left! I was even more excited about my 3 1/2 meal marathon after we’d tested the first one and it was hit.  I can’t wait to try the next recipe and see how it scores with the family.


Sausage & White Bean Slow Cooker Soup


  • 1 lb breakfast sausage, crumbled, cooked & drained
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 14 oz. cans Great Northern Beans, drained
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 t dried rosemary
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 1 32 oz. carton chicken broth


Crumble breakfast sausage into pan and cook thoroughly, drain & let cool if freezing.  Place all items into slow cooker, stir and cook on low 6 hours. If freezing, add all ingredients EXCEPT chicken broth into gallon-sized freezer bag. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before placing into slow cooker. Add chicken broth & cook on low 6 hours.

Taken from Who Needs A Cape (which she adapted from: Sausage & White Bean Soup)

I can’t say how much the meals cost because I bought items far beyond what was needed for the meal preparation and had many of the required items on hand already. What I do know is that it will help reduce the stress of not knowing what to make for dinner, the frustration of having to run to the grocery store for items we don’t have in the house or even worse, the feelings of defeat when you accept the futility of being at a total loss and order-in or pick-up fast food as a last resort. Obviously, the few hours spent preparing seems like a miniscule sacrifice in comparison to the rewards of convenience, stress free meal times and the peace of mind knowing that your family is getting a well-balanced home cooked meal. I’m feeling blessed to have found Who Needs a Cape ~ this might just be life changing… can’t wait to taste the remaining meals!

PS We’ve tried two of the other new recipes that I found and used that day, but will far less success. Both were found on a different site and although super easy to prepare, the results were less weren’t very impressive. The Chicken Broccoli Alfredo  and Hawaiian Chicken had mixed reviews, but no one thought they were great. I am still very optomistic and can’t wait to try the remaining 6 meals from Who Needs a Cape. I’ll keep you posted.