Mud Room Mayhem #3: The Shoe-lution!

Having no closet and dreading the thought of using some sort of messy shoe rack, I had my heart set on hidden shoe storage. I had planned this out long before the mud room make-over was ever really in the works. I had seen this idea years ago on Pinterest and knew that someday my mudroom was going to have drawers in the stair risers to hide the vast array of shoes that constantly littered our mud room floor.

Tim had already removed the old stairs from the kitchen down to the mud room. He custom built the stringers and stairs to fit the space between the kitchen door frame and the door leading to the back yard that sits at the base of the stairs. We decided to opt for simple 2″ X 12″ construction for the stairs and then sanded and stained the stairs to match the oak floors. We were super pleased with how the stairs turned out despite the fact that they were made very economically without spending on high end wood.

For the drawers, Tim re-used planks from our old wooded futon frame for the sides of the drawer boxes and then old 1/4″ fir for the base and drawer fronts. The fir was removed from the walls of an old walk-in closet/storage room in the basement when we reconfigured some of the basement several years ago. We had kept the wood for future projects and it came in handy for these drawers. Although the fir has much more grain and an orangey/red hue, the dark stain took beautifully and I actually love the fact that the drawer fronts stand-out from the stairs and aren’t so “matchy”!

Best of all, the drawers provide ample storage for our shoes, and short boots will even fit when placed on their sides. So thrilled!! Using stair risers for hidden shoe storage might be my favourite Life Hack yet!! Thank you Tim!


Life Hacks I Love #15: DIY Paint Tray Liner

If you’ve been following me for any length of time you will already know that I do a ton of painting! I can’t say I love to paint, but I am a bit of BEFORE and AFTER addict and paint is often my weapon of choice when transforming an object or space. The actual transformation coat is quite fun to apply because it is when you really see your vision come to life, but the steps leading up to painting (patching, sanding, priming) and the clean-up that follows are tedious and void of any real emotional pay off. Prep and clean-up are just necessary jobs that need to get done as part of the process. Over the years, I have tried different paint tray liners (including plastic bags) to help save on the clean-up at the end of a project. Store bought liners work well if they fit properly into your tray, if they are not designed specifically for your tray, they are more of a pain than anything else. My friend uses plastic bags by slipping the entire tray into the bag and tying the ends to secure it. I find that bags slip around and they just don’t work for me.

This summer I finally came up with a DIY paint tray liner that works great! The answer: GLAD Press’n Seal. Depending on the size of your tray, you may need two pieces to cover the bottom and up the sides of your tray. I simply overlap the seam in the middle by a couple of inches to stop leaking. The sticky surface on the bottom of the Press’n Seal adheres to the surface of the paint tray to prevent slippage and works like a dream. I actually made a simple video (my first ever) to show you how great it works. You will see a bit of seepage in the bottom, but this was caused during clean-up when I was trying to scrape some of the excess paint out of the roller with the edge of the paint stick. It slipped and the seam split slightly (you can see the spot at the beginning of the video). Had I not done that there would have been zero seepage. As it was, I simply wiped the spot with a paper towel and it came right off. Now you must keep in mind that my tray is not completely spotless as this is the same tray I have been using for about 25 years of painting!

Voila! So simple and what a time saver! Try it out next time you paint and let me know how it works for you.

If you like this idea and think others might too, share it on FB or Pin it for others to see!

Life Hacks I Love #14: Dishwasher Cutlery Basket Repair

Cutlery Basket RepairThe great news is I fixed my cutlery basket and the utensils no longer slide through the bottom and interfere with the function of the dishwasher or the pulling out of the bottom drawer! The bad news is I am not the genius I thought I was when I came up with the idea on how to repair this. I had two holes in the bottom of my basket that were driving me nuts and one night in bed it dawned on me – ZIP TIES! Although I wasn’t sure if the plastic would hold up or melt, I thought it was a brilliant idea ~ so simple, effective and inexpensive! (In fact free for me because of course, I had some on hand.) It took me about 5 minutes to repair the basket and to date (about 2 weeks now) the repairs are holding up very well.

So this morning before doing this post, I thought I would do a quick google search to see if anyone else has attempted to repair their baskets and see what ideas they came up with. I quickly found Mert’s Workshop and his great video on how to use zip ties to repair your basket. I must say I felt a little deflated because I really did come up with this idea all on my own, but I guess it just wasn’t that original after all. The silver lining is that I can share Mert’s detailed DIY video and save the time of restating the tutorial in my own words. Check-out Milt’s video to see how simple it is to have your basket repaired in no time at all! My personal preference is to stay away from red and stick with something a little less obvious like white, but the red ones give you a great visual of how they work.

If you like this idea and think others might too, share it on FB or Pin it for others to see!

How To Salvage a Flopped Cake

Last night, I got home from work and had to muster up every ounce of energy I had to whip up a cake and pop it in the oven. We are having my dad over for Easter dinner tonight (Good Friday) and I’m making birthday cake for dessert. April 19th will be my dad’s 78th birthday! I decided to make a Chocolate Layer Cake.  This is one of my favourite recipes, and it always works! Except for last night. What a perfect time for a cake to flop – it coincided perfectly with another rare and untimely event – I ran out of flour! Yep, I was so relieved when I scraped up just enough flour from the jar to make the recipe in the first place. I literally have no more than a few teaspoons of white flour in the house and its Good Friday, one of the only days in a year when stores are actually closed for the entire day. I’m famous for having to “re-do” things, but I simply didn’t have the time or energy to pull it off this time. Instead, I thought of a creative solution to my predicament.

Birthday Cake Disaster:

I had whipped up a double recipe of my favourite chocolate cake recipe and popped it in the oven.I knew that a single recipe was not big enough for two round pans, but the double was a bit too much. I should have taken some of the extra batter and made a few cupcakes, but I was honestly just too lazy. I knew the cakes would need additional time, because of the additional batter, so I wasn’t surprised when the cakes weren’t cooked in the suggested 30 minute bake time. I have always felt that my oven is a bit out of sync and that the actual temperature is a lower than the setting. I sometimes set the oven a few degrees higher to compensate, but I was too tired to think of this.

After the first check at 30 minutes of baking time, I proceeded to set the timer in 5 minutes intervals to stay on top of things and not over bake the cake. I continued to bake and check regularly for what seemed like forever. I was totally exhausted and just wanted to go to bed. Finally,after what I am guessing was more than an hour of bake time, I tested the cakes and the poker came up clean – finally!  It was not until I went to remove them from the oven that I realized that the oven really didn’t seem that hot. Well, that’s because sometime between the original 30 minute timer and the time I removed them, I must have turned the oven “off” instead of the timer. Ugh! Within 10 minutes both cakes had sunk ~ one not so bad, as it must have had slightly less batter to begin with, but the other would have made a a great cake if the party theme was “sink holes”! I decided to cover them with a towel on the cooling rack and deal with it this morning. 

Steps to Recovering a Ruined Cake:

Starting over really was not an option as I had no flour in the house (like that has ever happened before!) I could have borrowed from a neighbour, but I feel like I have done that a few too many times already. It seems I am often over looking a necessary ingredient. So, I decided to proceed and see what the interior of the cakes looked like. My plan was to make a 4 layer cake by cutting the two round cakes in half. When I cut them open, I realized that one cake really was fine. It had only sunk slightly and was cooked all the way through. However, the second cake was basically a pile of mush in the middle with a ring of cooked cake around the outside. I came up with a plan. Here’s what I did:

  1. I used the bottom of the “good” cake as the base for the layer cake. I frosted this layer.
  2. I then took the “bad” cake and scooped out the center of both pieces.
  3. I took the cooked outer “ring” of cake and placed it on the bottom frosted layer. I frosted the top of the ring.
  4. I then took the other outer cooked ring of cake and broke it into pieces.
  5. I mixed the broken cake pieces with the remaining filling/frosting and filled the center of the ring.
  6. I then added the final layer which was the top of the “good” cake and completed the cake.

When all was said and done, I had to toss about 1/4 of the cake or the equivalent of one layer. My final cake is a 3 layer cake with this yummy filling in the middle. You can’t tell at all from the outside and no one would ever know this was not the original plan. (I don’t think my dad reads my blog, so I’m pretty safe.) So, Good Friday birthday dinner will take place after all!

bunny curls

This white chocolate bunny provided the chocolate curls needed for the finishing touches.

I had originally planned to post the recipe for this Mocha Cake and will eventually share it. It has a whipping cream frosting and I added white chocolate curls for a simple look. Just because things hadn’t gone so smoothly with this cake, I was sort of expecting to come up empty when I checked the crisper for white chocolate. I was only disappointed for a moment and then got a twinkle in my I remembered that my kids “smugly” informed me they no longer believe in the Easter Bunny. This ended up being a life saver! I didn’t even feel bad when I opened up the white chocolate bunny and sliced off the bottom of it for chocolate curls. I wonder if they’ll notice that the bottom of the bunny is missing and that the bag has been taped up?


Life Hacks I Love #7: DIY Fire Starter

I am all about reusing and repurposing what others deem trash. I had found this idea on-line quite sometime ago and find it is a great solution to the “no kindling” dilemma we sometimes face when building a fire. We have a wood burning fire place and I often find that the fire wood box is lacking the bits of pieces of kindling that are key to building the perfect fire. The solution….paper towel roll + dryer lint = fire starter.

This is a great solution and is created from everyday waste that you have at home. Keep a stash of old paper towel rolls in your laundry room and stuff your dryer lint in the empty rolls. Throw one of these in with your logs when you are trying to build a fire. Once it catches fire, it burns longer than regular paper and thus provides the flame needed for the logs to catch on fire. The more compactly packed the lint, the better it works!

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Life Hacks I Love #4: How to Eat a Cupcake

This is one of my favourite hacks ever. This idea was shared with me about a year ago and it is absolutely brilliant! I always find it hard to take a big enough bite of a cupcake to get the “full height” of the little cake in one mouthful. You know, frosting on your nose and a big sticky mess. So classy! I am an icing lover and unlike some, I could for-go the cake altogether and just have a small bowl of icing! That being said, I want every single mouthful of cake to have icing with it, that is why this idea is so perfect for me. I originally heard about this at a wedding in which cupcakes were being served. Of course, the timing was perfect as I was able to enjoy my cupcake without the usual anxiety of wondering how much of it I was wearing on my face.

Sure enough, when I went to post the concept, I was able to find a video that demonstrates this fantastic idea. It really does work beautifully with the exception of super moist cupcakes that don’t hold their shape well. It is an absolute must try the next time you eat a cupcake. Check out the video!

How to Eat A Cupcake:

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Life Hacks I Love: #3 “Balloon-aid”

The Story Behind the Balloon-aid:

Okay, I have to start this post by confessing that my husband is always getting after me for my inappropriate use of tools around the house. It is like I have my very own Work Place Health and Safety Officer ~ lucky for me, that he has not yet fired me. My motto is not so much “Safety 1st!”, but more so “Get ‘r done!”. For the most part, I have been seemingly unscathed other than the hidden effects of self-inflicted lead poisoning over the years. (I am much more cautious now and always wear a mask, but not so much in the past. Yikes!!) So, my husband was not surprised when I cut my thumb on Sunday evening preparing supper. Just so you know, those handy little “mandolin” slicers do thumbs as well as carrots! Yep! Took the end of my thumb right off. I wouldn’t really describe his response as sympathetic, more of an “u-hu…”, you know kind of like “I told you so” without using the actual words. He did help me bandage it up and attempted to reassure me by telling me not to bother going to emergency as they wouldn’t be able to do anything and that there was really no need to keep the tip I had so carefully dug out of the carrot bowl. Ugh!

He had to leave for work shortly after it happened and I was supposed to get my son to hockey practise, but thought I would phone Health Links to see what kind of pain killers might help. In the end, I had to lie to the nurse and tell her I would find someone to drive me to emergency. She said they would stitch it or glue it, but I knew that wasn’t happening because the end of my thumb was already in the garbage by that time. I did take her advice and continue to apply pressure in an attempt to stop the bleeding and tried to keep it elevated. The bleeding had slowed, so I packed Shay up and got in the van for hockey, but as soon as I began to move and stopped applying pressure the bleeding started all over again. We came back in and Shay texted the coach to say we wouldn’t be able to make it. I called my cousin, a nurse practitioner and my own personal medical consulted, and she agreed that there was no point in going to the ER. She gave me some suggestions and it seems better today.

Luckily, it is my day off, so I am able to sit around and not do much. I am even able to type using the side of my thumb without too much pain. However, I was in desperate need of a shower and feeling a bit worried about breaking it open again when the wound is still so fresh. Suddenly, I had a wave of brilliance and thought of a possible solution. My first thought was a balloon of a more personal nature, but we don’t have any of those, so I opted for the bag of dollar store balloons I still have from the snow lanterns. It worked! No wet soggy band-aid falling off and I didn’t re-open the wound. Yay! You might just want to add a balloon to your first-aid kit. Although you could use latex gloves, I was really not wanting to wear a whole glove and the elasticity of the balloon neck really helped to seal it off.

My Balloon-aid:

Warning: Although this is a great way to protect your bandaged wounds from getting weight, it also means that you may be back on dish duty!

I am not claiming to be the inventor of this idea, but thought it up all by myself and thus have no one to offer credit to. So, to those like-minded individuals that may have had the same brain wave, prior to mine, I apologize if I have stolen your thunder. You know what they say “Great minds think alike”!

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Life Hacks I Love: #1 Gift Wrap Storage

It seems as though we are constantly being bombarded with new terms and jargon. I often find it hard to follow my own kids’ conversations as some of the words they use are completely foreign to me.  One of the latest terms that is circulating on the internet is “life hacks”.

What is a “life hack”?

life hack

I often browse sites that share “life hacks”, as I am always on the lookout for new and creative ways to do life in a more efficient way. Here is one that I found, tried and modified to better suit my needs.

Gift Wrap Storage

I saw this great idea for gift wrap storage on Pinterest. This hack was both easy and cheap, but I wasn’t totally impressed with it when I tried it out. The concept is simple. Cut a toilet paper roll lengthwise and slide the cardboard over the gift wrap roll to keep it secure. Unfortunately, it takes very little for the cardboard toilet paper roll to become stretched and not have enough “spring” to hold the paper in place.

toilet paper roll

This gift wrap roll is fat, so it works okay, but I can tell that with only a few uses, it would be stretched out of shape and no longer stay in place.

I was really disappointed as I thought this was a great idea. So, I came up with an easy fix. All you need are regular brads and tiny hair elastics which can be bought at the dollar store. A bag of 100 is $1. (Lets hope you don’t need all 100 for gift wrap or you may have more serious problems than how to store it).

Punch 2 holes in the toilet paper roll, stick a brad in each and stretch the elastic across to hold it securely. The great thing about this is that you can modify it by cutting out a section of the roll to make it smaller to fit around those skinny rolls of paper as well. (Otherwise, the standard size roll actually overlaps and slides right off of it). It literally takes seconds to make these and they work really well.

Now, if you are like my husband you might be saying….”that is supposed to be better than a regular elastic?”  Check out this spoof video on some of the life hacks that are circulating on the web.  Funny.

Often times, some of the “life hacks” seem like they are way more work than they are really worth, but I like this one because I find that tape damages the paper and an elastic often ends up cutting the paper.  Of course, if you make several of them, you can re-use them over and over again.

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