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Nov 15, 2017

Gimme Shelter - Another Weekend Project!

One of my least favourite things about the winter months is coming outside to an icy/snow-covered vehicle in the morning. We don't have a garage yet - someday! someday! - so instead we put up a quonset style shelter. We did have a shelter during our first two winters here, but a fierce windstorm last year tore the cover to shreds and just left the frame.

Vehicle shelter

The first step this year was to remove the old frame. Once it was unbolted from the concrete, Tom strapped it to the lawn tractor and backed up into the driveway. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Imagine seeing a shelter frame going past the the window.

Vehicle shelter

But it worked like a charm. He then lifted the front to guide it and had me "drive" the shelter to the back of the property. You can't make this stuff up.


The previous shelter had been screwed directly into the concrete pad, but it was really hard work. This time, Tom laid down a framework of 2x4s first. He attached the wood to the concrete pad using the Ramset air tool, then the shelter frame was screwed into the wood.

Vehicle shelter ramset
Vehicle shelter

The shelter framework is made up of u-shaped powder-coated steel tubes that form the walls and roof, and 3 horizontal steel tubes that connect the curved uprights together.

Vehicle shelter

Once the frame was connected and screwed down to the 2x4 base, the end flaps were installed. Tom did this by himself and it involved a bit of back and forth - raising up one side, then the other, then back to the first, etc. - until the fabric was up over the frame. The flap has a strap that runs through a pocket from one side to the other and is tightened down to the frame with ratchets at each end.

Vehicle shelter

With the ends in place, he had me come out to help with the main cover because it's huge. I'm sure you could do it by yourself, but it would take a great deal of time, having to pull up a section, then tie it in place so you could move to another section without the first one falling back down. No one needs that kind of frustration if they can avoid it.

There are lengths of steel tubing that slide into pockets at the bottom (side) edge of the cover. These are attached to the framework once it's in place, to hold the cover down tight to the frame.

Vehicle shelter

Tom threw lengths of rope over the framework and tied one end of each to the pipes on the cover so that we could pull the cover up and over.

Vehicle shelter

Except the pipes kept sliding out of the pockets when you pulled on an end. The solution? He zip-tied each pipe to the one beside it so that it had nowhere to go.

Vehicle shelter

We worked our way back and forth, pulling the cover up and over a bit at a time. I would hold one or more ropes in place while he pulled on the others. Once it's over the top and gravity isn't working against you, it's easy to pull it all the way down into place and remove the ropes and zip ties.
.
Vehicle shelter
Vehicle shelter

The  horizontal pipes in the pockets are attached to the framework with connectors that clamp on at each intersection of pipe. Tom then went around and tightened down all of the screws on the frame.

Vehicle shelter
Vehicle shelter

The cover still has to be connected to the front and back of the shelter. We pulled the fabric tight over the end flaps and ratcheted it down in the same way as the flaps.

Vehicle shelter

The final step is feeding a pipe through a pocket on the flap at the front. The pipe keeps even tension on the flap when you're rolling it up and down.

Vehicle shelter

And here's my baby all tucked away cozy for the night. I love not having to clean my car off in the morning after a snowfall - because you know I'm always running late and don't have time for that.

Vehicle shelter








Oct 31, 2017

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!!!

It's time to torture the doggos!

These aren't new costumes, but they're definitely our favourites.





Happy Halloween, everyone!


Oct 27, 2017

DIY Weekend Project: Kitchen Island


DIY Kitchen Island


We have a limited amount of counter space in our kitchen, while also having a large open space that is unused. We've always planned on including an island once we renovate.

One day I grabbed the painters' tape and marked out an area on the floor that I thought would be a suitable size (about 3.5 feet by 6 feet). That still left about 42 inches between the cabinets and the island and even more space on the far side towards the living room. Can you believe how much unused space there is! Nothing's been pushed out of the way - that's how it looks every day.


When Tom got home, he looked at it for a while and then commented that the taped area looked about the same size as the dining room table. Indeed it was, so we immediately dragged the table into the kitchen area. We figured that with a 3-dimensional replica we'd have a better idea of whether or not an island would work for us. I put cardboard over the tabletop to protect the wood, and then a flat sheet over that, to make it a little nicer to use. We did have to wash that sheet a lot though.


Right away we enjoyed having the extra prep space, and we didn't find ourselves bumping into it or feeling like it was in the way of our activities. Sasha even enjoyed having a new hiding spot where she could watch us cook up close. "Sunday Night Lunch Prep" is her favourite show.


So we knew we definitely wanted an island, but we didn't want to wait until we renovated the kitchen to have it. We decided to build a butcher block-style island with open shelving underneath - a simple design that would give us all the counter space we needed and some additional storage space.

Tom had seen a bamboo tabletop at Lowe's that was the same size as our dining table, and he knew that there was no way we'd be able to build one for the same price. We bought it and used it on top of the dining room table for a while until we were ready to build the base. We bought 4x4 cedar posts for the legs, 2x4s for the framework, and 1x2 slats for the shelf.

How we built it:

1. First we determined how high we wanted the island. We settled on 38 inches, which was 2 inches higher than the other kitchen cabinets.  And if it ended up being too tall we could always shorten the legs. We cut the 4x4s to 36.5 inches. We also angle cut the bottom of the legs (the feet) so that they wouldn't scratch the floor if the island was moved around (we also added felt pads for this).

DIY Kitchen Island

2. We turned the tabletop upside down on sawhorses and set the legs in place to determine how much of an overhang we wanted. The legs are slightly inset - about 1/2 an inch - and then the horizontal framework is inset just about a 1/4 inch more, so that the flat, cut edge of the 2x4 meets up with the flat of the leg.

DIY Kitchen Island

3. Next the 2x4s were cut to make a horizontal framework between the legs - 2 at 32 inches and 2 at 65.5 inches. One extra step we took was to plane the 2x4s on the edge that would be against the tabletop so that it sat flush (2x4s are slightly rounded on the edges).

DIY Kitchen Island

4. We added 2x2s (cut down from the 2x4s) inside the 2x4s. A framework within the framework. The 2x2s are attached both to the underside of the tabletop and sideways into the 2x4s. We did this so that there are no visible screws on the outer framework. They were glued in place and then also screwed in horizontally and vertically.

DIY Kitchen Island
DIY Kitchen Island

5.  Next the pilot holes for the leg screws were drilled through the legs into the 2x4 framework. The screws that we used - GRK structural screws - have a fancier head that look a bit like carriage bolts. We countersunk the holes so that the screw heads were flush with the wood.

DIY Kitchen Island
DIY Kitchen Island

6. We built the lower shelf framework in the same way as the upper framework, i.e. 2x4s horizontally running between the table legs. We also included cross pieces at the corners and down the center for added strength and stability. The corner cross pieces are attached to the framework using pocket screws (here is a link to a  terrific little pocket hole jig kit that we use all the time), and the center board is attached from the outside with countersunk structural screws.

DIY Kitchen Island

7. The shelf is 38 inches wide. Tom rough-cut the slats (1x2s) to about 39 inches - using one cut slat as a guide for the rest. We tacked two spare boards along one long side of the shelf framework to act as a jig that the slats would butt up against. This keeps them  all lined up on one edge while you're arranging them. Several other slats were cut shorter to fit between the table legs at each end.

DIY Kitchen Island
DIY Kitchen Island

8. Once all of the slats were laid in place, Tom ran a pencil along the underside of the slats that overhung on the open side of the shelf and cut them along the line so that they would be exactly the same length. The slats were put back on the frame and were air nailed into place. The jig boards could then be removed.

DIY Kitchen Island

9. I sanded all of the new wood twice, once with a medium grit sandpaper and then again with a fine grit. The island top of course doesn't need to be sanded.

DIY Kitchen Island

10a. Each of the different types of wood (cedar, bamboo, and pine) were different shades. The bamboo top and cedar legs were very close to each other so I chose to only stain the pine framework and slat shelf. I always seem to have several different stains on hand. I tested them out on scrap wood. and Minwax Provincial came the closest to the shade of the cedar and bamboo. I did test the stain on a scrap piece of cedar, just to see. It absorbed a lot of stain and went far too dark, confirming my decision not to stain the legs.

10b. I taped off the top and the legs to protect them, then applied two coats of stain with a soft cloth, letting it dry between coats. Applying stain with a cloth allows you to control the amount applied and you don't have to come back and wipe the excess off later. Once the second coat of stain had dried I removed all of the painters' tape and wiped the entire table down one last time.

DIY Kitchen Island
DIY Kitchen Island

We did have to take the island apart again to get it upstairs, but that's one good thing about the legs not being attached to the table top - we were able to undo the leg screws, take the pieces upstairs, and bolt it back together.

DIY Kitchen Island

One more step: The bamboo top needs to be oiled regularly, especially when you first buy it. We just use generic mineral oil, wiping it all over the top, following the grain, and waiting for it to dry before using the tabletop again. If you do it at night before bed, you can leave it to dry overnight.

DIY Kitchen Island

At first I was worried that the island would be too high, being higher than the other cabinet counters, but it is the perfect height. I have no complaints at all. And that huge shelf underneath gives us a place to store all of those small appliances that get in the way.

After having it for a few weeks, it's hard to imagine life without it.

DIY Kitchen Island
DIY Kitchen Island
DIY Kitchen Island
DIY Kitchen Island





Oct 1, 2017

Nashville Trip - September 2017

We've spent the summer working on projects around the house that are more infrastructure-related rather than cosmetic. So at the end you look back and wonder if you've really made any improvements at all. I'm fairly certain we have, but I needed a pick-me-up.

I dragged Tom off to Nashville for 10 days and we had an absolute blast. If you remember (here's a link if you don't), I went there on a girls' long weekend last year, but didn't manage to see nearly all of the sights I wanted to. Tom and I played full-on tourist and packed our days with sight-seeing and our evenings with live music.

Nashville

Of course we started our vacation with a night at the Grand Ole Opry. That night featured Ricky Skaggs, Maggie Rose, Shelly Fairchild, Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers, and Steve Wariner, among others. Tom was pretty happy to be there on a bluegrass/banjo night.

Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry

~~~~

We took the Old Town Trolley tour, which is a hop on, hop off trolley that goes all around Nashville, hitting most of the city's landmarks. The drivers were really well-informed and kept up a running commentary filled with history and interesting trivia about what we were seeing. I recommend it highly.

Get ready for a whole lotta scenery.

Old Town Trolley Tours Nashville

Marathon Motor Works:
Marathon Motor Works Nashville
Marathon Motor Works Nashville

The Parthenon (Centennial Park):
The Parthanon - Centennial Park - Nashville

Bicentennial Mall State Park:

Bicentennial Mall State Park - Nashville
Bicentennial Mall State Park - Nashville
Bicentennial Mall State Park - Nashville
Bicentennial Mall State Park - Nashville


We also walked around downtown A LOT. My phone's step tracker probably though I was cheating.

Lower Broadway Nashville
Johnny Cash Museum Nashville
Printers Alley Nashville
Printers Alley Nashville
Printers Alley Nashville


Nashville Farmers' Market. This place was HUGE. And it has a food court. That's open every day. 

Farmers Market Nashville
Farmers Market Nashville
Farmers Market Nashville
Farmers Market Nashville


I loved the architecture. My camera was filled with pictures of buildings.

Kirkland Hall Vanderbilt University Nashville
Union Station Hotel Nashville
Hermitage Hotel Nashville
U.S. Customs House Nashville
Hume-Fogg Academic High School
Tennessee State Capitol Building Nashville
Christ Church Cathedral Nashville

Tennessee Supreme Court Nashville
Ryman Auditorium Nashville

~~~~

At night we went to see as many live acts as we could.

Belcourt Taps:
Belcourt Taps Nashville

The Family Wash:

Stephen Simmons
The Family Wash Nashville

Jon Byrd
The Family Wash Nashville

Jamie Rubin
The Family Wash Nashville

The Bluebird Cafe:

Yes, we got tickets! They sang, and told stories, and brought in other friends to sing. It was amazing. Like, I didn't want to leave amazing. We were sitting so close to the singers (that's Tom's head in the lower left). Best night of the whole vacation.

The Bluebird Cafe Nashville

Mickey Guyton
Mickey Guyton The Bluebird Cafe Nashville

Nathan Chapman
Nathan Chapman The Bluebird Cafe Nashville

Stephanie Chapman
Stephanie Chapman The Bluebird Cafe Nashville

Liz Rose
Liz Rose The Bluebird Cafe Nashville

Jake Rose
Jake Rose The Bluebird Cafe Nashville

Christy McDonald
Christy McDonald The Bluebird Cafe Nashville

~~~~

On my last trip to Nashville we went on a tour of the mansion at Belle Meade Plantation. It was so good - the guide told the story of the plantation in such a way that it really stuck with you. I knew Tom would enjoy it too. The tour was just as interesting the second time. We also toured the grounds and buildings.

Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville

We finished up by visiting the Belle Meade horses - Whispers and Lt. Dan. We quickly became very good friends.

Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville
Belle Meade Plantation Nashville

~~~~~

So what about the food? After all, Nashville is known for its food. Oh, we ate so much!

Nashville is famous for its hot chicken. The most well-known locations are Prince's (the originator) and Hattie B's. It's even on the trolley tour. We chose Hattie B's because...we were in the area. Note: the Charlotte Avenue location has a much shorter line, if you happen to be over that way.

Hattie B's Hot Chicken Nashville

The chicken comes in 6 heat levels - from Southern (no heat) to Shut the Cluck Up (burn notice). I chose medium and it was just right. Spicy-hot, but not so much that you don't enjoy it. I really liked my meal, but I'm going to be completely honest here - it wasn't life-changing. It was just good chicken.

The other southern treat I wanted to try was Kool-Aid pickles. We don't have anything like that here at home. These ones are from Peg Leg Porker, a BBQ restaurant located in the Gulch. Now these were kind of fun. The pickles are brined (is that the word?) in a dill juice/Kool-Aid mixture, so that they have a flavour somewhere between a dill and a sweet pickle. I'm going to try to make these.

Kool-Aid pickles koolaid

Now Tom + Chee isn't a "Nashville thing", but it was a place we wanted to try because, again, we don't have this chain at home. They specialize in fancy grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, hence the name. This one below is turkey pesto with mozzarella and potato chips - in the sandwich. Amazing.

Tom & Chee Nashville gourmet grilled cheese

We went to the Tennessee State Fair on our last night there, and I had to the deep-fried Oreos. What a fantastic, greasy treat.

deep fried Oreos


Other places we tried that were new to us:

Cookout - 2910 Gallatin Pike, East Nashville
- great prices, generous portions

Tenn Sixteen - 1016 Woodland St., East Nashville
 - try the Bushwacker! (and the chicken & waffles)

The Family Wash/Garage Coffee - 626 Main St., East Nashville
- the best meatloaf and mashed potatoes

Sky Blue Cafe - 700 Fatherland St., East Nashville
- worth the wait in line, huge breakfast, fresh squeezed orange juice

Franklin Mercantile Deli - 100 4th Ave. N., Franklin
- get the soup and sandwich combo

Southern Engine Deli - 1200 Clinton St., Nashville
- pastrami sandwiches on sourdough - so good!


There is a store on Lower Broadway called Savannah's Candy Kitchen. It is a candy-lover's paradise. I went there last year and was pretty excited to go again.

Savannah's Candy Kitchen Nashville @savcandy
Savannah's Candy Kitchen Nashville @savcandy
Savannah's Candy Kitchen Nashville @savcandy
Savannah's Candy Kitchen Nashville @savcandy
Savannah's Candy Kitchen Nashville @savcandy

Then there was Rocket Fizz:
Rocket Fizz Nashville

And Sweet! Pick & Mix at Opryland Mills:
Sweet! Pick & Mix Nashville

I probably should have bought this shirt.