Little Home, Big World

…what would Ma do?

Backpack Rack August 18, 2010

Say that five times fast! πŸ™‚ I’ve spent the last few years tripping over first one backpack, then two…but starting four weeks from now, I’ll have four in school. Visions of having to climb over a backpack mountain when I come in the front door scared me into finally coming up with a solution. A trip to the local Habitat Restore turned up a nifty looking piece of wood (maybe part of an old bedframe? I have no clue.) for $3.00 and a bunch of brand-new nickel-finish hooks, two for a buck.Β  Perfect! Here is how I put it all together…

Step One: make use of some of gazillion empty boxes I’ve been piling on the back patio as I unpack to create a spray-paint studio. In the name of efficiency, I put out everything else I could think of that I was planning to paint – hence the picture frames and coat rack. You’ll see those later. πŸ™‚

Step Two: Panic when it begins to rain after you’ve finished the first coat. Cover items with boxes and duck inside. Panic doubly when thunder and lightning join the party. Spend the next 40 minutes hoping desperately that your projects aren’t destroyed.

Step Three: Dry projects and apply final coat of spray paint.

Step Four: (next day) Distress board. Conveniently, the spots with water damage added to the aged-and-weathered effect. πŸ˜‰

Step Five: Space hooks out evenly; I put mine at 12″ intervals so the backpacks could hang side by side.

Step Six: Hang on the wall; finding the studs is a smart idea.

I just used Krylon Interior/Exterior Flat Black spray paint that I picked up at the local Canadian Tire, not chalkboard paint, but it works as well – at least for this application, it might not stand up to a lot of chalk art. I like the old-fashioned, schoolhousey sort of feel to this…and at a total of $5.00, the price works!

Linking up to the CSI Project…the projects there put mine to shame, but hey, I did use spray paint! πŸ˜‰



A Spicy Entrance July 28, 2010

I was oddly fascinated by this spice cabinet of my mother’s when I was a little girl. There was something about the small knobs, and the way everything inside lined up so nicely, that I just loved. (Apparently my fascination with glass jars started early.) Moms remember those things, and she offered it to me when she was getting rid of it a few years ago…I jumped at it, but then it languished – sadly faded and spotted – for months years. I’d see it in my craft supplies tote every now and then and have every intention of making it over, without actually doing anything.

Sometimes it takes awhile for all the pieces of an idea to come together, you know?

Then I discovered this blog:

Visit …and saw that this week’s theme is “Roadkill Rescue”…and knew it was time.

So what that I’m days away from moving and my house is a mess and full of boxes and it’s horribly hot and I should probably purge and pack and not craft this afternoon?

*gasps for air*

Darn it! Sometimes a girl has to get crafty, for the sake of sanity. πŸ™‚

It was a simple makeover. I took off the “faux drawer”, reclaimed the knobs and drilled holes in the back of the cupboard so I could reuse them as key hangers. I primed with some leftover Zinsser B-I-N, brushed on a couple coats of semi-gloss latex I have on hand from painting my porch chairs, and use chalkboard vinyl from the dollarstore for the front doors. I lightly distressed the edges with some sandpaper…and that’s IT!

Total cost for project? Nada. Zero. Zilch! It was all stuff I had on hand. How sweet is that?

Ultimately it will end up hanging in the entryway at our new house – did I mention I’m moving in a few days? πŸ˜‰ – and I love the idea of pulling the color from the front porch chairs inside.

Turquoise. Chalkboard. Free.

Mmmm. Crafty therapy 1, Moving Stress 0!


#4 – Sew A Slipcover For The Couch – DONE! July 22, 2010

I’m crossing off the first of my 30 Before 30 list! I’ll admit to being slightly fixated on this project for a couple weeks, ever since signing the lease on our new place – and realizing that the brown carpets + beige walls + my brown slipcover would be WAY too much brown. As in, a mud puddle jumped on me. πŸ™‚ Money aside, I’m hesitant to invest in a new couch right now – with four little kids and a cat, it doesn’t seem like a smart purchase, you know? In a couple more years, yeah, but right now? Not so much.

So…the slipcover. I was down in Sarnia on the weekend with my eight-year-old to pick up his new glasses, and make use of the Sarnia Library’s reference section. We decided to check out Fabricland on the way home, and – *happy dance* – discovered they had seasonal fabrics on for up to 75% off. We scoured the home decor section, but no luck…then happened to wander over into the fashion fabrics. There I found it, a lovely linen blend, natural and neutral, a sturdy thickness but still softer and easier to work with than painter’s drop cloth (my other option), and best of all, really nice and wide – 160cm. That meant I needed to buy only 8 meters instead of 16! PLUS it was on for $4.00 a meter – normally $10 – hello, come to mama! πŸ™‚

I started working on the cover yesterday after lunch. Thinking of you all, I took pictures every step of the way…only to realize there wasn’t a memory card in the camera. Why, yes, I am just that good. So, I have only a picture of the basted-and-pinned inside-out cover to prove I made it:

Basting made a HUGE difference for this project. La Maison Reid‘s beautiful slipcover convinced me it would be worth a try. I’m nowhere near as accomplished a seamstress, but the basting made the slipcover MUCH easier to fit and sew, and provided a great sewing line for the seams. I used pink crochet cotton, so it was quick to hand-baste, and easy to pick out. Here’s the final result:

I can pick out about dozen things that aren’t quite perfect, but I’m pretty proud of it none the less. And it fits WAY better than the storebought version we have been using, so I think it will stay in place well. And it’s washable! πŸ™‚

Since I was on a roll – and had a meter and a half of fabric left – I recovered the cushions on my uber comfy and horribly ugly glider rocker, too:

I am pathetically pleased with the boxy corners on that cushion…

Overall, the project was pretty high up there on the challenging scale, and I must confessΒ  I developed a deep, lasting affection for my seam-ripper…who’d have thought such a tiny little tool would grow so precious to my heart? πŸ˜‰


Organizing Stuff…stuff. July 19, 2010

Filed under: Blahging,Frayed Shoestring,Simplicity — bethanyjoy @ 4:12 pm
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My writing brain is a little fuzzy today after a 4:30am start, so today’s post is simple:Β  Organizing is hard. Organizing a FAMILY home, well, I harbor a suspicion that it might be impossible…but I still like to pretend it could happen. Here’s a few ideas I’ve seen recently that, at least, make it seem doable…even just a little bit at a time.Β  πŸ™‚

Countertop storage (attention, moms of the cheerio-crowd!)

Storage idea for casserole/baking dishes

How to recycle veggie cans into useful storage (I love the cork!)

Printable Weekly Menu (for meal planning) – cute…now if I could only be diligent about USING it…

Do you know any good, easy, inexpensive organizing solutions? What works for you and your family?


Spring Cleaning Recipes March 8, 2009

Filed under: Penny Saved,Virtuosity — bethanyjoy @ 7:03 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

OK, so you should actually use these all year, not just for spring cleaning. But we’ve had above-zero temperatures for THREE consecutive days, so I am officially in spring-cleaning mode. πŸ™‚

Not only are these recipes quick and easy — and effective! — but they are definitely cheaper. And they leave your house smelling fresh and clean… not like funky blue cleaner.

Basic Ingredients:

  • Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap
  • Baking Soda (look for the big, generic box of it at the grocery store. You’ll use lots.)
  • Vinegar
  • Washing Soda (look in the laundry aisle)
  • Borax
  • essential oils (optional; I use mostly Lavendar, Lemon, and Tea Tree Oil)
  • some spray bottles, rags, and a sponge (look for spray bottles in the plant section of your department store, or at a dollar-store location. You could recycle them from other spray products, but since most of those contain the toxins we’re trying to avoid, it might not be the best option.)

Soft Scrubber: In a small bowl, combine about 1/2 cup of baking soda with a squirt or two of Dr. Bronner’s and just a little bit of water (add water by the tbsp until it’s the consistency you want.) Scoop some up on a sponge and use it to clean the tub, shower, sink, etc. Rinse well. (If you need more heavy-duty scrubbing action, use 1/4 cup borax and 1/4 cup baking soda.) Obviously, you can mix this in any amount and consistency you want…figure out what works for you.

All Purpose/Glass Cleaner: In a spray bottle, combine equal amounts water and vinegar. Spray on windows and wipe off with rag. (If windows are really dirty, you can add a few drops of Dr. B’s to the mix. If there is a lot of mineral-buildup, use more vinegar and less water.) I keep a bottle of this in the kitchen and use it to clean counter tops, the table, highchairs, etc. Vinegar is a natural germ-buster.

Dirt Buster Spray: A fantastic recipe over at Care2 – check it out! Works great on stuff like stovetops, fridge door handles, etc.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Sprinkle borax over the water in the bowl (I do two shakes and a shimmy, AKA 1/4 cup), use a brush to clean bowl, then let it sit for 1/2 hr or so. Cleans great, deodorizes, and doesn’t turn your water blue.

Stinky Carpets or Couches: For mild stinkiness, sprinkle with baking soda, let it sit for at least 15 minutes, and vacuum. For mustiness or serious stinkiness (hey, if you have kids, you know not to ask) use borax in the same way, but let it sit overnight if you can.

Linoleum Floors: For a sinkful of HOT water, add a couple squirts of Dr. B’s and a glub of vinegar. Use a mop.

Laundry Boosters: Add washing soda to whites and towels — it does wonders on stains and odors. Use vinegar instead of fabric softener to remove detergent residue. For fresh-smelling clothes without chemicals, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a small rag and toss it in the dryer.

Linen Spray: Combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup vodka in a spray bottle, add 15-20 drops of lavender essential oil. Spritz over beds and let dry before making up.

Migraine-free ‘breeze: Combine 1/4 cup vodka and 1 cup water in a spray bottle. Add EO’s as desired. (I like 10 drops lavender with 10 peppermint for a fresh scent, or mandarin and clove bud for a holiday scent.)

Pot Luck: If you have a glass, ceramic or stainless steel pot or casserole — fill with HOT water, sprinkle with washing soda, and let it sit overnight. All the baked-on crud will come right off in the morning.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. Happy cleaning!

No, really. It’s spring. Clean those windows, let the sunshine in, and enjoy the fact that a) you’re not hurting the planet b) you’re not hurting your health c) you’re not hurting your kid’s health and d) you saved money. See? Almost makes it fun, doesn’t it?


Using the Good Stuff February 6, 2009

Filed under: Penny Saved — bethanyjoy @ 4:28 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

A spirit of frugality is a wonderful thing. Most of the frugal who I am lucky to know are creative, resourceful, thoughtful souls.

There does seem to be a hidden danger to frugality, though; a subtle trap that many of us seem to give in to. Come closer and I’ll whisper it in your ear.


Perhaps it’s because we truly appreciate the value of our dollar. Maybe we’ve had a few too many years of a few too few of those dollars to ever be loose and careless with them. Or perhaps it’s a simple matter of our being so good at saving and waiting that we simply forget that it’s good to use…in fact, it’s good to enjoy the things we have so carefully earned, saved and treasure.

One example of this is the concept of having “everyday dishes” and “Good China”…I’m guessing you know what I mean. There are the simple, indestructible, sturdy dishes that we use three meals a day, 364 days a year — and there are the lovely, beautiful, delicate dishes that we bring out on holidays.

Isn’t it ironic that it’s the bland, everyday dishes that our families will really remember? What messages do we send when we rarely bring out the “special” dishes? Isn’t the fact that we’re sitting down to eat together special?

Life is short. My kids will be grown and gone before I’ve managed to figure out a meal that they’ll all actually eat.

So I’m going to use the good dishes. In fact, I’ve repurposed a dish-drainer and put out a family-sized place setting of the good china on top of the dining room cabinet. Instead of being hidden away safely (and forgotten), we are going to use the good stuff.

When I’m gone and the kids are sorting through my “treasures”, I want them to say, “Remember these? They were the dishes we used at supper time. Remember when we…” and not, “Hey, aren’t those the dishes mom wouldn’t let us touch?”

That’s mine. What’s yours? Are you knitting though the bland yarn in your stash, refusing to touch the “good” stuff? Are your most luxurious sheets hiding in the linen closet? The best wine never opened?

Go for it. Use the good stuff.

It’s just stuff.


Room Tour: The Twinbits February 4, 2009

It’s finished! And it’s a hit. My “babies” love their big-kid bedroom, and I’m pretty pleased with it myself. Other than the paint (“Daydream” by Debbie Travis) and a bit of fabric for the chair, the rest of the items were found or made. It’s decor on a dime — enjoy your tour!

E’s Bed — the quilt on the headboard was made by Great-Aunt Karen. The large crocheted blanket by friend Christina, the small one by myself. The chenille bedspread was a thrift-store-score.

Both bed frames were rescued and painted by Nana.

C’s Bed —Β  the spread was a gift from Nana, and the picture framesΒ  handpainted byΒ  C&E’s brothers and uncles.Β  Gingerbread men climber from my childhood. Crochet blanket by me, quilt by Great-Aunt Karen.

Bookcase (and matching miniature furniture in room) were built by the twinbit’s Great-Granddad Martin. They were originally in Aunt Emily & Aunt Elyse’s room, and have passed along to us.

Rocking chair was recovered by me. (First attempt, be kind. πŸ˜‰ ) Crochet blanket by a family friend.

I really love the window treatment. I sewed a simple valance, and then we made paper pinwheels using the instructions here — the paper is pages from an old book I found in a thrift store (“An Edwardian Lady’s Country Diary”) and instead of pins, I used some lonely stud earrings that had lost their mates or weren’t being worn any more.

And on the window sill, to tie it together, we put one more pinwheel.

Carriage and toyhouse built by Great-Granddad, latch-hook rug by a family friend.


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