It’s that time of year again; the days are dark and cold, and no matter how much you try to ignore the relentless store displays -Christmas is coming! Stop living in denial and embrace it, November is actually the perfect time of year for shopping, decorating, and baking. Save December for building snowmen, going skating, throwing parties, and marathoning TV Christmas specials in your fuzzy slippers while drinking hot cocoa and munching on sugar cookies.
If you actually want to enjoy the lead-up to Christmas and have some fun with your family and friends, take the Christmas Pledge. It’s just three easy steps:
Step 1: Make list of all the chores that need to be done before Christmas.
Step 2: Download this blank calendar and schedule in when you will accomplish everything on your list.
Step 3: Commit to yourself to get it all done within the month of November.
That’s it! Now get to work, you have plenty of time to prepare for the most wonderful time of the year. Get all the stressful leg-work out of the way now for a December that is jolly and bright!
Don’t wait much later than mid November to order from on-line shops, you don’t want presents arriving late! .. and you need time to wrap them.
The earlier you hang your lights, the warmer it will be. You don’t need to start turning them on until December.
While you’re out shopping for everyone else, get a few festive outfits for yourself. You know you’ll be invited to a slew of Holiday parties so you might as well save yourself from that crazed last-minuet-mall-hunt as well.
I find putting up the tree enjoyable and make a music and eggnog fueled event of it every December. But if you find it a chore, go ahead in get it done along with the rest of your decorating.
Check out my freezer-cooking plan for ideas on how to make an assortment of appetizers and cookies you can bake on demand throughout December.
Our old chepo washing machine stopped functioning properly about a year ago. It technically still “worked” because it got clothes clean, but we had to manually start the spin cycle. Manually. Every. Damn. Time. Occasionally all it would take was a light push requiring no more effort than giving a kid a twirl on a tire swing, but usually the washer demanded curses, kicks, and a blood sweat and tears sacrifice before spinning the clothes.
I kept my eyes out for a good deal on new appliances and when one came up we jumped on it … I also had a plan ready to completely makeover the room. Once the Mr. and I got everything disconnected and removed, I took advantage of the empty space and painted it a grayish white that immediately made it feel bigger and brighter. The colour is “Swiss White” from Dulux and it took two coats plus a primer to cover that pink, which I think was original to the house. The light fixture got a hit of black spray paint and the drying rack a coat of white, just to freshen them up. We also replaced the doorknob and electrical plates as well as installed a new laundry tub and faucet. The new washing machine not only looks a lot nicer than the old one, but it actually initiates the spin cycle all by itself!
The wooden wall cabinets got painted a creamy white and all the door hardware was replaced. I took my time with this project, first using a spray primer, then an enamel paint applied with foam rollers for a leveled finish. I’m planning a similar treatment for the upstairs bathroom vanity so am super pleased with how well it turned out.
I love my laundry room because of its size and that it is on the main floor (not being noisy beside the bedrooms yet not banished to the basement either), but it is odd not having the machines beside one another. The washer and dryer face each other in the little room leaving gaps between walls that loved to collect household junk. We made the best of the unusual setup by installing a counter over the dryer. It makes the space seem more planed out and built-in, rather than just having an appliance floating in the middle of a wall. It’s also wonderful having a wall-to-wall surface for folding and pre-treating clothes.
This was a surprisingly easy project. We cut an Ikea EKBACKEN (dark oak effect) counter to size with a circular saw, and then supported it slightly off the dryer by screwing 1×2 boards into the studs along the wall. TIP: tape under the cut line before using the saw to prevent the laminate layer from splintering. We achieved a really clean finish and even drilled a hole for the electrical cord to pass through, cunningly camouflaged by a my framed Weekly Cleaning Schedule. The counter is simply sitting on the supports so it can lift right off if there is ever a need to access the back of the dryer.
I put a lot of thought into how to keep this utility room organised, luckily Ikea is always full of organisational solutions. A RÅSKOG cart is keeping all those extra bottles and cleaning supplies neat and accessible under the counter and a FINTROP system above the sink houses sponges, rubber gloves, and brushes. I also added wall hooks designated for brooms and dustpans, and tucked the ironing board away behind the door.
All said an done, we only spent $1850 on this makeover, including the two new appliances! Laundry is still a chore but it is certainly nice to have a pretty and well-functioning space to do it in. There is some sort of magic in design that means nice-looking rooms stay clean and tidy much longer than the drab ugly ones. Do we unconsciously work harder to keep a space we like looking the way we like it?
If you don’t like watching videos .. why are you on the internet?
Just kidding! Here’s the gist of the above for all you word lovers:
Today I’d like share my excitement over Charmed Aroma candles; which are beautifully scented soy-based candles with a ring hidden inside. We are not talking about gum ball machine type rings here; these are real pieces of jewelry worth anything between $10 and $5000.
How fun is that!? You get a quality candle for a totally reasonable $26, with an included bonus ring (cool) which has the potential to be worth a solid chunk of change (fantastic). I think these make incredible gifts and have purchased a bunch of them for ladies on my Christmas shopping list. … surprise!
I also bought one for myself, obviously, and I am in love with ring it came with. Each ring is accompanied by a code that allows you to check its worth on-line. Mine appraised at a respectable $80.
The candle burned for a little over 5 hours before the wax was melted enough for me to fish out the foil and plastic packet that contained the ring. There was no wax at all on the ring before I handled it with my waxy fingers, its just shiny and pretty and perfect.
All the candles I ordered smell amazing and came well packaged in bubblewrap for shipping. Delivery did take about a month and a half though so if you are considering getting one for some one on you Christmas list, or for yourself, visit charmedaroma.com soon and place an order.
Posting a video and/or picture of you ring reveal on social media enters you into a draw for another ring. There are no bonus entries for blog-posts unfortunately, but this video was still really fun to make!
Note: No one paid me to say any of this. This is all just my genuine unbiased excitement over stuff I think is awesome.
As you may have been able to tell from my How To Lay a Pea Gravel Patio post, Liam and I have been making some significant progress on our backyard.
I don’t have great ‘before’ shots of our corner garden, but basically all that jungle behind the chain-link fence was encroaching a good 5 feet into our lawn. We cut it back, dug out the roots and created a fabric-coated, mulch-covered, minimal-maintenance perennial garden. The best kind of garden there is! I also gave the old bird bath a few coats of bright blue spray paint to freshen it up.Our shed was more nest than storage solution so taking it down became a thrilling two hour battle with bees. We got it done without getting stung but the massive pile of junk that was left managed to sting us with a $300 bill to have it removed. That shed was nothing but trouble! The side garden was an overgrown mess that I would have loved to rip out entirely, but it is too shady a spot for grass to grow. It was either garden or dirt so I picked garden as that was less work anyway. I just cut it back and cleaned it up so that now it’s neat.
The second big project of the week was refinishing the deck. We rented a belt sander from a home store and took turns sanding each board one by one. Not only did this remove the old stain and dirt on the wood, but smoothed everything down tremendously. I hadn’t realized how rough and splintery our deck was before we sanded it.
Next came staining. I spent eight (EIGHT!) solid hours putting the first coat of stain on this deck. Don’t be mad at Liam, while I was staining he was doing the much harder job of filling the gravel patio. The next morning it still took the two of us two and a half hours to apply the second coat. The old dried out and freshly sanded boards just soaked up the stain and getting in between them was a tedious nightmare. The result though, is fantastic. Below is just a sneak-peek of the first coat; I’ll reveal the finished deck when its all dressed up and pretty.
Staycation is over; we’re slightly more tanned but back at our desks and busy as ever. Our intention is to take another week off in August to complete the backyard and tackle some issues at the front of the house as well. I’m looking forward to it. Even though we work tremendously hard on our holiday we gain a great sense of accomplishment … and manage to sneak off to my wonderful uncle’s pool every now and then for a dip and a cold one. Cheers!
The area to the right of our deck was a mess. Small, uneven, overgrown with weeds, rotting and generally unappealing. It housed the BBQ and the garden hose but provided no other purpose except looking ugly. As part of our Staycation Plans, the Mr. and I decide to replace this area with a much larger pea gravel patio.
I took to the internet to familiarize myself with the Pros & Cons of a gravel patio. The look can be classic or modern; as elegant as an English garden or as laid-back as an ashram. The colours of the stones will vary according to your geographical location, meaning you will be using a local product that reflects your home. It is easy to install and maintain, but the biggest Pro has to be the low low cost. No other hardscaping material can compare to the price per square foot of pea gravel. Some Cons to keep in mind are that snow removal is next to impossible, it will need intermittent but consistent raking and cleaning, and there is a chance of stones spilling out onto to grass or other parts of the landscape. Although easy to walk on, the gravel has a lot of ‘give’, making it inappropriate for paths or areas you’d want to move a wheelbarrow or other equipment across. For our needs, it was the perfect option.
We started by tearing up the brick patio stones and tearing down the rotten garden bed frames. We had to wrestle the stones from a swarm of fire ants, but we actually found a buyer for them on Kijiji! A little bit of cash in our pockets, but we’re mostly happy to be diverting waste from the landfill. Once the area was clear, we marked out the dimensions of the new patio and painstakingly removed all the grass using a flat edged shovel. This was a very labour intensive part of the project, requiring a lot of care that we only skimmed about 3 inches off the surface of the lawn. We are attempting to salvage the sod from this area to fill in where the shed used to be. Six weeks of consistent watering should do it, fingers crossed.
Even doing our very best to rip up the grass evenly, the dirt was far from level with low soft spots and rock-hard bumps all over the place. We rented a power sweeper from a home store which enabled Liam to power through the peeks and get us a nice flat surface for our base.
I laid landscape fabric over the whole area, being careful to overlap each strip. Follow your material directions, but I hammered in landscaping pegs every 3 feet or so. This should give us 3-5 maintenance-free years. Re-purposing wood beams from our now truncated side garden, we framed the patio so that the gravel stays neatly separated from the grass. To secure the beams we nailed in steel pegs right into the ground, first pre-drilling holes to prevent the wood from splitting.
Now it was gravel time! I ordered 3 cubic yards of 3/8″ to 5/8″ Coloured Riverwash Stone (a.k.a. pea stone) from Greely Sand and Gravel, using their on-line calculator to estimate how much stone we would need. The result ended up being pretty much bang-on, we have a tiny bit extra.
Liam lost count of how many trips he made with the wheelbarrow, it had to be at least 50. But after a back-bending day of shoveling 3 cubic yards of stone from one end of the house to the other, it was done. With a little bit of raking and smoothing, our pea gravel patio was complete.
The last step of this project was to soak the stones with a sprinkler. They got all dusty during transfer and look chalky here, but the beautiful river-wash colours really came out with a bit of hosing off … except I’m saving those pictures for later.
Even as an empty surface we like it and know it’s the right choice. The patio is now much more proportionate to the deck, and we no longer have dead space under the bay window. I cannot wait to finish our other backyard projects to show you how it all pulls together!
The Mr. and I are currently on a “staycation”; meaning we are off work but at home. As much as we’d love to spend this time lazing around or playing tourist in our own town, we have far less convivial plans. This week and a half has been set aside to overhaul our neglected and overgrown backyard.
Remember that beautiful, lush, mature yard we inherited when we moved in? Well sometime over the last 3 years everything either rotted, died, or shape-shifted into threateningly large and spiky plants. Lately we have been too busy to cut our grass, let alone hang out on our rotten deck, but as wedding-season summer winds down, we’d like to look forward to having a more welcoming space to spend our precious spare time in. We’re going to reclaim our backyard and create an oasis we will actually enjoy. Here’s the plan;
The shed is absolutely infested with rodents and bees, and everything being stored in there is junk anyway. It’s an eyesore and a hazard; I cannot wait to tear it down! Also, the garden is wildly overgrown and needs taming.
Aside from a few rotten boards, I think the deck can actually be salvaged. We will strip it, sand it, stain it, and get some professional help on fixing the steps. I’m keeping an eye out for some sort of structure (gazebo, pergola, etc.) to create shade so sitting on the deck is bearable during the day. We’ll also need a cozy chat set for some comfortable seating.
The garden beds around the BBQ will get torn down and the tiny interlock pad will be ripped up to make room for a larger pea gravel patio. Gravel isn’t our first choice, but is an affordable DIY option that should be easy on the eyes and on barefooted toes! The space under the bay window will no longer be wasted, becoming a designated dinning area.
The back of the house gets a lot of sun during the day so I’d like to visually cool down the space with blues and purples. We’re shooting for a boho hippy vibe, casual and relaxing … which we are going to need after all the work this is going to be!