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Apr 25, 2017

Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving

I don't have a cute intro for this post - I just had too many framed photos filling cardboard boxes and stacked against the walls in the spare room and I was really tired of looking at the blank walls every day!

One Saturday morning I told Tom that we really needed to build shelves and that it shouldn't take very long. I loved the floating shelves we had in the living room in our last house. But this time I wanted them to be chunkier, and it didn't really matter if they were floating. I grabbed the iPad and Tom went to his computer so that we could both look for ideas. I walked into the room to show him one I'd found that I liked, and hand-to-heart, he had the same image on his screen and was about to show me. Fate, baby.

Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY

We headed into town for supplies - three 2x6x8 foot boards (shelves would be 6 ft long) and pipe fittings for 6 supports (2 per shelf). We were looking for 6 inch pipes (called nipples), but the shortest pipe we could find was 10 inches - that would make the shelves far too deep for our liking. Tom remembered that he had a length of 3/4" plumbing pipe at home that was left over from relocating the washer/dryer that he could cut up, so we only had to buy end caps and flanges.

Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY

Back home, Tom went off to cut the pipe down to ~6 inch lengths and I sanded the boards. Now were you to buy the correct length of pipe it would already come threaded at each end. Our pipe pieces, having just been cut, were not. You need those threads to attach the end cap and flange. Luckily, we also have a pipe threader - a nifty little tool that carves threads into the pipe. It's a bit messy - metal dust will fly - but quick and efficient.

Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY Pipe Threader
Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY Pipe Threader
Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY Pipe Threader

Once Tom had the pipes cut and threaded, he attached the end caps and flanges. We then figured out where we wanted the supports (i.e. where the studs were in the wall), and secured them to the wall. We also set the boards in place to make sure we were happy with the look.

We took it all down and headed back to the basement where Tom set up the supports on some cardboard and spray painted them a matte black while I stained and waxed the shelf boards.

Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY


I had planned on using an espresso-coloured stain that I'd had for awhile (maybe too long), but the colour was really washed-out, so I went with my usual - Minwax stain in Jacobean - which I also had on hand. I swear, I should be their spokesperson, I use it so often.

Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY

The next day we hung the supports back up and put the boards in place. Tom did make a couple of adjustments to the supports (tightening or loosening the end caps) so that the shelves were very secure. And any adult...toy joke you can think of has already been made. Trust me.

Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY
Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY

One other modification we made: since you want the shelves to be level, the boards will sit only on the pipe, not up on the flange. But the flange has a little neck that sticks out and that puts a pretty big gap between the shelf and the wall. To overcome this, Tom marked where each board rested on a support and cut a semicircular notch in the back of each shelf so that the neck of the flange drops into it.

Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY

That way the shelf sits as close to the wall as possible. You could make the notch even bigger so that the shelf is flush against the wall, but we've found in the past that walls (and boards) are rarely perfectly straight and you end up with gaps anyway. Better that they look intentional.

Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY

I considered spray painting the screw heads to match when the supports were being painted, but instead I just used a Q-tip and painted them by hand. I figured they would have to be touched up anyway after installation so there was no point in doing the work twice.


Now to the fun part - decorating. Most of the pictures are the same ones that were on the shelves at the old house, but there are a couple of new ones - including the painting that looks like Sasha that we found at HomeGoods in Ohio. It used to hang over her food bowl at the old house. I was also able to include the turtle carvings that we bought on our last trip to Hawaii. We bought them about 4 hours before our flight left, from a store that was going out of business, so it was a lucky find. They've been tucked away in the bookcase ever since.

Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY
Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY

I love the wood. Some people have mentioned that we should have matched the stain to the dining room table, but I like being able to see the wood grain. And I don't think the supports would make as much of a statement if the wood was darker. The bench we built a few years ago looks very similar, so I think once it's available (it's currently being used as a TV stand) we'll place it nearby so they can complement each other. The picture frames are also so many different shades of wood that it's a perfect mishmash of colour.

Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY
Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY
Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY
Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY
Plumbing Pipe Open Shelving DIY

Apr 12, 2017

Carrot Cake Easter Cupcakes (with Cream Cheese Frosting)

I'm not a baker by any means. But there's something about spring and Easter that just makes me want to get creative. I have a recipe for carrot cake that I love - I think it's the pineapple that really makes it - and nothing is better than cream cheese frosting.

Easter cupcakes carrot cake cream cheese frosting


For the cupcakes:

1 cup pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice*
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
3/4 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup crushed pineapple with juice

Pumpkin Pie Spice:
(This will give you more than enough spice)

1/2 tbs cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice


For the frosting:

1/2 cup of cream cheese - softened
1 cup of icing sugar (i.e.confectioners' sugar)
butter
food colouring
piping bag and tips (or plastic sandwich bags if you're like me)

~~~~~

Preheat the oven to 300-325 degrees depending on your oven. Cupcakes cook faster than cake and you don't want to dry them out.

Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, oil, and egg, stirring well. Add the carrots and pineapple, stirring again. You could add coconut or chopped nuts as well at this point. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture a little at a time, blending as you go.

Spoon the batter into greased cupcake tins, filling them about half full. I found that the batter rises quite a bit so don't overfill them. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

While the cupcakes are baking you can prepare the frosting. Cream the sugar and cream cheese together until smooth. If you would like the frosting a little softer add butter a little at a time to get the consistency you like. I added my butter (about 1/4 cup) at the start and didn't like how soft/runny the icing was so I suggest testing as you go. If you want stiffer icing, add more icing sugar.

Divide your icing into small containers and dye each with the food colouring of your choice. For orange you will need just one drop of red but several drops of yellow. That red is strong stuff!

I don't have a piping bag so I just used several small sandwich bags with the corners snipped off instead. Spoon in some icing and squeeze it down to the corner you've snipped. Then use your imagination for the decorations!

Here is my first cupcake. I liked the look of the carrot so much that I made all the small ones the same. Carrot cake has to have carrots on top.

Easter cupcakes carrot cake cream cheese frosting

Easter cupcakes carrot cake cream cheese frosting

Easter cupcakes carrot cake cream cheese frosting

In the spirit of full disclosure, I attempted some other styles that are not quite as pretty. I think the baby chick and the rabbit look like they're wearing sunglasses, don't you? The rabbit ears are made from pieces of paper with some pink icing applied.

Easter cupcakes carrot cake cream cheese frosting

They're not professional looking - I get it. But I had a lot of fun. And they were fun to eat too! The pineapple makes a huge difference to the moistness and flavour. You know, the more I look at them, the cuter I think they are. Well done, me.

Easter cupcakes carrot cake cream cheese frosting

I think I'm going to keep working on this decorating thing. I'll give you an update when my bakery is opening. Image result for happy face emoji

Easter cupcakes carrot cake cream cheese frosting

Easter cupcakes carrot cake cream cheese frosting

Easter cupcakes carrot cake cream cheese frosting

Apr 3, 2017

Spring Hydrangea Wreath

We went to the Newmarket Home & Lifestyle Show on the weekend, and being surrounded by kitchen cabinet refinishers, bathroom renovators, and interior decorators really put me in a mood to get back into some projects - big and small.

We have so many jobs on hold right now because some other job needs to be done first: the rest of the basement can't be insulated until the one window is replaced, but that can't be replaced until we have drier, warmer weather, and we can't seem to force Mother Nature to skip some steps. (Though this time last year we were preparing for a snowstorm so I'm not complaining, I promise!)

Then there are the baseboards in the bedroom to be installed, but the carpet needs to be replaced first, and we can't do that because there is nowhere to move the furniture to (see unfinished basement previously mentioned).

So I decided to forget about all of the things I couldn't finish and work on a little project I could - namely a new wreath for the front door.

Spring Hydrangea Wreath


It's been a long, long time since I've made a non-Christmas wreath for the house - if you're interested here are some of my past favourites:

Spring Wildflower Wreath

Spring Vine Wreath

Monogram Wreath

House Number Wreath

Layered Picture Frame Wreath

Apparently I've made a few wreaths!

The front of our house is pretty drab right now what with the gardens still dormant, so I wanted something with plenty of blooms and a bright, cheery colour. At the dollar store I bought out half of their supply of green "silk" hydrangeas, plus a roll of brown burlap ribbon. This ribbon is a little stiffer that the burlap I've used before so hopefully it will keep from fraying in the wind.

Spring Hydrangea Wreath

I used an old bentwood wreath form that I've used many times - you can still see the glue marks from ghosts of wreaths past (they're on the back too! :-) ) The heads of the flowers easily popped off the stems and I hot-glued them close together all the way around the form. I was prepared to have to fill in places with smaller blooms but these ones were so full that it wasn't necessary, and I was finished in no time.

Spring Hydrangea Wreath
Spring Hydrangea Wreath

For the bow, I cut one piece for the loops and tails and a separate piece for the center knot. I wasn't able to tie it from one long piece like I normally would due to the stiffness of the fabric. I laid the long strip out in the position I wanted and then wrapped the smaller piece around the middle and glued it to itself at the back.

Spring Hydrangea Wreath burlap bow

I then burned my thumb with the glue gun and had to take a break to feel sorry for myself. To distract from the pain I tossed flowers at Chloe, trying to get them to land between her paws. It took a few tries. Patient dog.

Sweet Mastiff with flowers

Back at it, I attached the ribbon at the bottom of the wreath and hung my new pretty on the front door. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day - perfect for picture-taking.

Spring Hydrangea Wreath
Spring Hydrangea Wreath
Spring Hydrangea Wreath

There were plenty of flowers left over (I guess I went a little crazy), so I put them in a wicker basket on the living room coffee table. They brighten up the room so much...and distract from that poor table that needs to be refinished so badly.

Spring Hydrangea Wreath

Happy Spring!



Mar 19, 2017

Antigua - February 2017 - Part 2 of 2


Are you ready for more vacation recap? If you missed it, you can read the first part here.

On our second day with the rental car we headed south to the English Harbour area. I wanted to go hiking and had read about the Jones Valley Trail that leads up to Shirley Heights, connects with the Carpenter Rock Trail, and then down to the Pillars of Hercules.

We found the trailhead for Jones Valley Trail on Galleon Bay Road, no problem.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

The trail is very well marked, with white paint spots on the trees and rocks every so often to keep you on track. It's a little slow going at the beginning as you're climbing over really large rocks in a dry riverbed - but it's so beautiful that you don't mind the extra effort.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

We came upon a brick wall - in the middle of the forest. I believe it's part of an old dam. But it felt like we'd stumbled into an episode of "Lost". I think this is one of my favourite photos, ever.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

At this point the trail splits into "Gravesite" or "Woodland". We chose Gravesite. On this path you pass by old grave stones that are so weathered you can barely read them.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

At the next split we took "Graves and Cistern". Near the end of the path you pass an old cistern and sluiceway that used to feed the nearby soldiers' barracks.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua

You come out of the forest and are just a few hundred yards away from Shirley Heights Lookout, one of the most popular tourist attractions on Antigua. The lookout is a former military complex with a view of the Atlantic and all of English Harbour.

Shirley Heights, English Harbour, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua

The second part of the hike is Carpenter Rock Trail. At this point we were at the highest point on the island (Jones Trail is entirely uphill), and Carpenter Rock Trail leads you down the other side of the mountain to Freeman's Bay and the Pillars of Hercules.

Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

This trail is out in the open, running along the coast and leading down through cacti and other thorny bushes. The view is just so amazing - I don't think I can even describe it effectively. We honestly weren't sure we were going the right way, but those white dots kept leading us on.

Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

Carpenter Rock:
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

We finally made it to the bottom, walked around the point, and after climbing over some more huge rocks and dodging the waves coming in, we made it to the Pillars of Hercules. These are natural limestone rock formations that show the weathering power of the wind and the sea. They are so gorgeous - just an amazing sight to see. Some people snorkel there, but the waves were so strong that day that I couldn't imagine it. Perhaps if we'd walked further around the point it would have been calmer, but we didn't want to take our chances.

Pillars of Hercules, Antigua
Pillars of Hercules, Antigua
Pillars of Hercules, Antigua

We retraced our steps back around the point and hung out on the beach at Freeman's Bay for a bit. The bay is much calmer and we did some snorkeling here. Tom swam over to a sunken ship to have a look around, but it turned out to only be a boat from the '50s or later.

Freeman's Bay, English Harbour, Antigua
Freeman's Bay, English Harbour, Antigua
Freeman's Bay, English Harbour, Antigua

Once we were done we hiked all the way back up to Shirley Heights and then down Jones Valley Trail to the car. If you look at a map - which we did later - you'd see that our car was parked less than 200 yards from where we were snorkeling. Yeah, we're that dumb sometimes. But we got a great workout and saw some amazing sights.

Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
English Harbour, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

We made a quick stop at Nelson's Dockyard on the way back. Nelson's Dockyard is part of the naval base at English Harbour where repairs and maintenance of ships were done. It is now a historical site, but it was a bit disappointing to find out that most of the buildings have been turned into restaurants and shops. We were pretty tired by then so we didn't stay long.

Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua
Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua
Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua

And then I was so excited about getting this shot that we missed our turn on the way back. :-)

Dogs on a wall, Antigua

The next day we rode two-person boats out to Cades Reef with Antigua Reef Riders. The boats are a cross between an inflatable dinghy and a jet ski and go up to 25mph. So cool.

Antigua Reef Riders
Antigua Reef Riders
Antigua Reef Riders
Antigua Reef Riders

Cades Reef is one of the best snorkeling sites on Antigua. We swam around for about an hour and a half, and then started the drive back.

Antigua Reef Riders
Cades Reef, Antigua, Antigua Reef Riders
Cades Reef, Antigua, Antigua Reef Riders
Cades Reef, Antigua, Antigua Reef Riders

About halfway back - in front of our resort actually - we were given 5 or 10 minutes to play around with the boats and do whatever we wanted. Tom had driven us out and back, so this was my chance to give it a try. It was fun, but I think I needed a little more time to get completely comfortable.

Antigua Reef Riders

The rest of our vacation was spent relaxing at the beach and pool, and just wandering around the resort. Antigua is a beautiful island and we can't wait to go back some day.

Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua


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