Feb 11, 2017

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cereal Treats

Looking for a Valentine's Day treat to make for that special someone or just for yourself (You're special, too!)? I have an easy, no bake recipe for you that will push all the right flavour buttons - butterscotch, peanut butter, sweet 'n' salty, and crunchy. What do you mean, "Crunchy isn't a flavour"? It should be.

You might call these clusters, or haystacks, or cookies, or balls - I can't decide so I'm going with "treats". No matter what, they still taste amazing. I'm thinking of making them in a pan next time and then cutting them into bars like brownies.

peanut butter chocolate cereal treats

Ingredients List

6 cups of cornflakes (or other favourite non-sweetened cereal)
1/2 cup of peanut butter
1 pkg of butterscotch chips
1/4 cup of chocolate chips

sea salt
dried cranberries
mixed nuts (chopped)
red pepper flakes


Start by melting your butterscotch chips and chocolate chips in a saucepan over very low heat. Once they are smooth and melted add your peanut butter and stir to combine. If you are also including dried cranberries or mixed nuts, add 'em now.

Slowly add your cornflakes a little at a time, stirring as you go. You can press down a bit with your spoon to break some of them up - the smaller pieces will help the treats stick together.

peanut butter chocolate cereal treats

Drop your mixture a teaspoonful at a time onto a wax paper-lined cookie sheet. The wax paper isn't crucial, but it sure does make for easy cleanup.

peanut butter chocolate cereal treats

Here comes the fun part. If you are adding sea salt or red pepper flakes, sprinkle them - just a few! - on top of each treat. Put your pans in the refrigerator to cool and then transfer your treats to an airtight container once they have set.

 peanut butter chocolate cereal treats
  peanut butter chocolate cereal treats

I'm afraid I don't have any pretty packaging to show you for this one as we ended up eating them all! But if I'd wrapped them it would look something like this (a treat that actually made it to the intended recipient). The dollar store is a fantastic place to find inexpensive gift packaging.

However, if you choose to keep them for yourself - and I don't blame you - Enjoy!

Feb 8, 2017

Basement Wall Framing & Insulating

basement framing and spray foam insulation

When we moved into our house the basement was unfinished. Or maybe it was considered partially finished since there was insulation and drywall hung? If you recall the photos from our original house tour, the basement was a big open space just waiting to become a functional living area.

A lot of the drywall and insulation had been damaged by moisture so we tore it all down to start fresh. We also wanted to install additional electrical boxes, so it had to come down to run the wiring anyway. Once it was gone and the old insulation removed, Tom decided he would rather have spray foam insulation go back in instead of the usual pink fiberglass type.

We gathered a few quotes, and the one thing we were told by all of the installers was that the framing was too close to the wall for foam. Normally your framing is right up against the wall, the pink insulation is installed, and a vapour barrier goes up to keep out moisture. With spray foam insulation there is no separate vapour barrier - it acts as the barrier. If your framing is against the concrete, moisture will find its way through the wood and into your drywall. No good. Instead, there is a gap between the wall and the framing that is filled by the foam.

So before we could have the insulation installed, the framing had to come out and new framing had to go up. You know on the renovation shows when they say, "It's demo day! Yay!"? Demo is only fun for a hot minute - then it gets noisy, and dirty, you have a headache, and you still have to lug all of the boards and whatnot up out of the house. But we got it done in a day and moved on to the reinstall.

basement framing and spray foam insulation - demo day
basement framing and spray foam insulation - demo day

Okay, that's a bit of a lie since we took a break from that job to install two new basement windows at the front of the house and box in the two at the back. Part of our moisture problem was caused by the large gaps around the front window frames, so large that you could see daylight through them.

One of the benefits of replacing the windows and boxing them in was that we now knew where the framing and drywall would go. We dropped a plumb line past the front of the window "box" down to the floor and marked it. That's where the sole plate would sit. We also marked the spot on the joist for the ceiling plate. We did this in a few more places along the wall and then used a chalk line to draw a straight line between the marks.
basement framing and spray foam insulation plumb line
basement framing and spray foam insulation plumb line
basement framing and spray foam insulation plumb line

The sole plates were installed using a Ramset air tool. The nail, called a pin, is used with a cartridge and fires into the wood and the concrete like a .22 caliber bullet. One of our dogs is now terrified if anyone even heads towards the basement because of the noises from the compressor/ramset/air nailer. The poor thing is traumatized. We've started taking her down there for cookie breaks to try and help her get over it but it's slow going.

Rottweiler in a closet  :-)

The ceiling plate and the studs are attached using an air nailer. The one we use is by Bostitch. To attach the studs a nail is driven diagonally (toenailed) through the stud and into the sole plate, one on each side and one at the front.
basement framing and spray foam insulation framing nailer Bostitch

Three nails go into the top as well. The bottom of the stud is flush with the front of the sole plate, but since you want it to be plumb top to bottom you need to line it up with a level before nailing it in at the top. This leveling means that it might not necessarily be flush with the ceiling plate.

basement framing and spray foam insulation
basement framing and spray foam insulation Bostitch framing nailer

The studs are spaced 16" on center, i.e. from the center of one stud to the center of the next. The easiest way to maintain this spacing is to make a spacer jig from a spare piece of 2x4. If a stud is 1.5" thick (and it usually is), the jig will be 14.5" long (16 inches minus 1.5 inches). Here's a tip: to make it even easier to slide the spacer in and out of the space, cut off one of the edges on each end (opposite sides) at a 45 degree angle. This will also ensure it lays flat against the plate, in the off-chance that one of the angled nails didn't go all the way in.

basement framing and spray foam insulation - spacer jig

When framing around the windows, the stud on the far side needs to be installed before the ones in the middle. Measure across from the nearest stud in 16" increments until past the window and install the full stud. Then a crosspiece is installed horizontally below the window from stud to stud. The studs installed below the windows are still 16" apart (and are called cripples - dropping some knowledge on ya!)
basement framing and spray foam insulation - window framing
basement framing and spray foam insulation - window framing

Between the studs we added blocks for stability. These blocks are just pieces of 2x4 cut to length (14.5 inches again). We put blocking at the top and bottom of the wall, about a third of the way from the ceiling and floor. They can be staggered or run straight across - staggering them just makes them easier to install as you can nail straight through from the opposite side instead of toenailing at an angle. You can climb on our framing, it's so strong now. I know because I did.😛

basement framing and spray foam insulation

This reinforcement blocking can also act as a fire block, i.e. it breaks up the air space between studs so that should a fire break out, the flames won't shoot up the wall like in a chimney to the next floor. Our framing is not tight against the wall so the reinforcing blocks aren't fire blocks, but the foam insulation does act as a block. (Although insulation itself is still flammable, of course.)

basement framing and spray foam insulation

Once all of the framing was in place and the new electrical wiring had been run, it was time for the spray foam insulation. By this time it was winter and it was pretty darn cold in that basement. We took the dogs out of the house for the day (they got to go to work with Tom!), and the basement was sprayed in just a few hours. I went to look at it as soon as I got home and I couldn't believe how much warmer the space was. That soon.
basement framing and spray foam insulation
The walls are pretty freaky looking - almost like a horror movie, dripping green everywhere.

Here are some side-by-side before & after shots:

basement framing and spray foam insulation

basement framing and spray foam insulation

I'm sure people think we're crazy for being so excited for the insulation, but it was a really long time in coming. Next up is to put in the floor and then we can start framing in rooms and hanging drywall. Here's a link to our eventual floorplan. That's how we'll be spending the rest of our winter. How about you?

Dec 19, 2016

Last Minute Gifts for the DIYer

DIY gift guide last minute

So, we're counting down the final days to Christmas and it dawns on you that you don't have a gift for that handy, crafty, do-it-yourselfer in the family. Or maybe your loved one is just getting started and you want to help them kit out their workshop. What to buy?

Let me help you out with some ideas at all price ranges - from under $40, to bigger ticket items, to stocking stuffers. I've based it on the tools that we use the most and a few that we wouldn't mind having ourselves.

Gifts Under $40

DIY Gift Guide

1. "Sawdust is man glitter" coffee mug. Tom laughs every time he hears this phrase. It also looks great on a t-shirt.
2. 24-inch bar clamps with trigger tightening. I've talked about these clamps before. I call them my "extra pair of hands." The 2-foot length makes them perfect for any-sized project.

3. Look how flashy these Dewalt safety glasses are. If you don't have safety glasses in your workshop then you should. You really should. You should probably have a few pairs as they're always getting misplaced. These bright yellow ones will easily stand out in a field of off-cuts and wood shavings.

4. My sweetheart, the Kreg R3 pocket-hole jig. For when you want to join boards at angles or along edges. That's pretty much all the time. The list of projects we've used this on is enormous. Pocket-hole screws provide an extremely strong joint and this jig guides you in drilling the holes at the correct angle and depth every time.

5. Do you have a table saw? (If not, see below.) Do you worry about your hands getting too close to the blade while the board is fed through? These table saw push sticks lock onto the board and allow you to keep it in place throughout the entire cut without having to guide it with your bare hands.

Gifts over $100 
DIY Gift Guide

1. The lowly table saw. One of the building blocks of a well-equipped shop. This Bosch model comes with a stand that folds up - a bit like a stroller - for easy storage out of the way when you're not using it. But you'll be using it - A LOT.

2. It only takes a couple of times attaching a screw by hand to realize you need a power driver. And your drill is your go-to hand tool. Ridgid now has this set of 12V drill/drivers that are lighter than the usual 18V workhorses, thanks to the smaller battery. I got them myself a couple of months ago. And once in a while I get to use them because Tom is always borrowing them.

My dorky face the day I got them:

3. It can get pretty boring just listening to the hum of the saw and the sound of your own thoughts. This Ridgid jobsite radio runs on any Ridgid 18V battery or can be plugged in. It has bluetooth capabilities and can be paired with your smartphone. It also has charging ports for your other devices. We have this model - you can see it in the top left of the photo above.

4. Everyone has heard of Dremel. Yes, you have. The Dremel Multi-Max oscillating tool does so many things. It can cut (in place!) It can sand. It can scrape. It's one of the tools that you'll grab for just about anything. Especially for smaller jobs - it's so much easier than dragging out your other saws.

5. Perhaps this should be #1 on the list. Keeping your work area neat, tidy, and organized is a priority. And being able to find that hammer or measuring tape or drill makes working on a project so much more fun. This 8-drawer Excel tool chest has space for everything, and it's mounted on rollers for easy maneuvering.

Stocking Stuffers
DIY Gift Guide

Your shopping is finally done but you realize that you still need a few stocking stuffers. The following are some "can't live without" tools that will fill up the stockings and fill out the toolbox too.

1. Nearly every project we do involves countersinking screws. 'Cause who wants to see screw heads sticking up? This combination countersink bit allows you to drill a pilot hole for your screw and bore a hole to countersink it at the same time.

2. I don't like cleaning paint brushes. But I do like taking breaks while I paint. Enter The Paint Brush Cover. It protects your brush from drying out between coats or between sessions. (There's also one for rollers.) The cover keeps the brush usable for up to a week. And it's easy to clean. I love this thing and grabbed a few the last time we were in the US (I haven't seen them in Canada yet).

3. Anyone can change an electrical outlet, right? So why isn't it working? This GFCI outlet tester plugs into the outlet and tells you what the error is through a combination of different light indicators. No more messing around and getting frustrated.

4. Diagonal-cutting pliers (aka sidecutters) are necessary for any toolbox. And you'll want good ones. These ones have a beveled edge for close cutting. Plus the handles are long enough to always be comfortable.

5. Tom recommended this LED flashlight. He uses his Whether it's looking in an engine, doing close electrical work, or figuring out what the dog has in her mouth, again. You'll reach for this every time. You might even want to carry it on your belt like a true professional.

Hopefully these gift suggestions help you out. Because no one wants socks again. Unless they're these ones.


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