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Kids Craft: Paper Plate Easter Baskets

This is an idea I stole from Boo’s daycare many years ago. It’s a simple craft you can do with the kids and makes a nice decoration for your Easter table. These baskets aren’t sturdy enough for an egg hunt, but they will hold some Easter grass and chocolate eggs or candies. Plus, your kids will be super proud to display them as part of your family’s holiday decor.

What you will need:
Paper plates (the cheap kind you can get at the dollar store)
Crayons, markers, coloured pencils
Scissors
Hole punch
Ribbon

Instructions:
To begin, turn your paper plate face down and colour as desired all over the bottom of the plate, which will become the outside of your basket. Be creative. Be colourful. Let your kids have fun with this!

Next, cut a series of slits about an inch and a half apart, all around the outside of the plate. Cut in to about half an inch into the flat part of the plate. The deeper your cuts, the narrower and higher your basket will be. You will now have a series of “flaps” all around your plate.

Take your hole punch and make two holes in the top of each flap.

 This is what your plate should look like after all that cutting and hole punching.

Now, take your ribbon and begin to lace it through the holes, drawing the flaps up to make a rounded basket. Be sure to overlap the flaps consistently (over, over, over, …) all the way around to make an even basket that sits flat around the upper edge.

When you get back to the start with your ribbon, you will need to overlap and draw the ribbon through one of the first holes a second time, to bring it back to the outside. 
Tie your ribbon in a pretty bow, and you’re done!

You can fill these with a little Easter grass if you like, or just toss in some candies. Little Boo is really proud of the basket he coloured (on the left). These have been added to our Bunny Hutch and are filled with yummy gummy bunnies.

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The Silverware Chest – Refinished

A couple of years ago, I was going through the linen closet in my grandmother’s old apartment, and I found a silverware chest. It had an incomplete set of silver plate inside, including a few serving pieces. I liked the silverware, but the box was in awful shape.

It had been stored on a shelf along with a number of table cloths. The one resting directly on top of it was a vinyl table cloth, with that gauzy cotton backing. It was STUCK completely to the surface of the chest. Total disaster. There was even some sort of paper label seemingly glued on. But I took the chest anyway, figuring I could salvage it. Last weekend I finally dove in.
My plan was to first clean, then refinish the chest, so I could display it on my sideboard and have a safe home for my new set of “good” stainless cutlery. I thought a good dose of Goo Be Gone would do the trick, but this mess was too old and intractable. Total waste of time. Although the box smelled lovely.
Because I have a thing for power tools, I tried to lightly sand the mess away. Nope. I just managed to gouge the surface in a couple places. Sanding would have  done the trick eventually, but it would have taken away too much of the wood.
So, I turned to paint remover. This wasn’t my first choice, as it’s messy and smelly and the fumes were quite overwhelmng since I was doing this project inside, but it did a great job. I used a gel-style paint stripper, applying it on all sides. Only the top needed to be stripped, but if I didn’t do the whole piece, the stain would not have applied evenly. Required: paint stripper, scraper, gloves, drop cloth to protect the floor, and a big rag or rags to continually wipe the scraper of collected ick. Finish up by wiping the whole piece with a clean rag and paint thinner to ensure the surface is clean.
I was so eager to keep moving on this project, I forgot to get pictures of the paint stripping process. Essentially, once you let the gel sit for a few minutes, you simply push the paint scraper across the surface (gently but firmly) and slide off a big, gooey mess. Scrape, wipe the scraper, scrape again until it’s done.
After the scraping and then cleaning with paint thinner, let the piece dry before applying stain. For this small project I decided to try MinWax Wood Finishing Cloths. They are like baby wipes, just soaked in stain instead of distilled water and cleaning things. Super easy. 

Required: drop cloth to protect the work surface, MinWax Wood Finishing Cloths, gloves. That’s it. Put on your gloves, open the package to remove a wipe, close the package to avoid remaining wipes drying out, and then wipe the cloth across the wood, going with the direction of the grain.

The stain dries in about an hour, and then you can take another cloth and add a second coat, if you wish. Best thing? No brushes to clean! I slipped the glove off over the wipe and tossed them in the trash. No clean up required.

I’m pleased with how this has turned out, although I still need to replace the hinges, once I find something suitable. Once I got the guck off the top of the chest, the rest was easy. This isn’t what I’d call an heirloom piece; none of us can remember Nan actually ever using this silverware or chest. It may have come from some other relative and made its way to her closet. We’ll likely never know, and that’s ok. I’ll still think of her when I see it, and I’ll know that I gave it a new lease on life.

The inside wasn’t hurt, just a bit dusty.

Displayed with my late mother-in-law’s crystal bowl.
I didn’t do a perfect job of staining, but I’m happy with it.

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“Fixing” My Kitchen Reno #DIY

We made many mistakes when we got into our kitchen renovation in 2015. Many. And a few of those still haunt me today. But, the one I want to focus on is the lack of foresight and planning for our pantry.

Oh, how I lusted after a pantry. Any extra cupboard space, really. But a floor to ceiling pantry was second only to pot drawers on my list of “must-haves.” The designer dutifully drew my pantry in, right next to my fridge. And I was excited! He even included the dimensions for us. So much room! Glorious.

Our mistake was – we didn’t look closely at those dimensions. We knew it would mean tons of storage, but we didn’t adequately envision to what those dimensions would translate in real life.

Really freaking deep shelves.

See how far away this can is?? Who can reach that behind a whole slew of other cans?

If we had fully grasped this (or, perhaps, if we’d had a better contractor) we would have requested gliding shelves. But we didn’t. So I have spent the last year and a half blindly moving cans and bottles and boxes around, tossing armfuls on the counter, trying to find that one can of whatever that I just KNOW I bought last week.

You can’t find anything at the back of a 23 inch deep cupboard. Trust me on this one.

I finally got fed up. I debated having someone come to install proper gliding shelves. But instead I decided to do a quicker fix and ordered two pull-out cabinet organisers (affiliate link) from Simple Human. I figured I’d start with two and then get more if I was happy with them. To make a long story short – I am!

These heavy-guage metal baskets have a removable liner to keep your cabinets clean.  They glide effortlessly. And they were super easy to install.  Honestly – four screws. That’s it. I removed the liner, placed the basket, and used my cordless drill to quickly sink the screws. No pre-drilling required.

Be sure to account for the door and hinges when you are installing one of these sliding baskets.
You want to be sure it will slide all the way out!

And see how easily they move –

Of course in the process of emptying my pantry so I could install these, I found an embarrassingly large amount of forgotten and expired food. Also, many duplicates of items I clearly kept losing toward the back of the shelves. I had FIVE cans of Heinz Original Beans with Pork in Tomato Sauce. And not one, but THREE opened boxes of Ritz crackers (all stale). I may have cried a little at all the food I threw out. But now? Now I have a newly purged and organised pantry, with at least two shelves I can pull out to access the things at the back.

It’s all so tidy!!

So, my tip to you for your next kitchen reno is this – be careful what you wish for, and be sure to fully understand the plans for your new kitchen. If your cabinets will be especially deep, consider access to the far reaches. This is something we should have dealt with in the planning, and not as a later, needed fix. And, if you have deep cabinets now, know that there are solutions out there.

Oh! One last note. Since I installed these on adjustable shelves, we have to be careful when pulling them out. Pull too far without supporting the shelf, and the while thing will topple! (For the record, I didn’t have to learn that the hard way.)

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Re-finding My Inner HandyWoman

My father and grandfather were always super handy. Whether it was fixing the family car or putting an addition on the house, they were always into something. And I watched, and sometimes helped, and learned a few things along the way.

My grandfather gave me my own hammer before I had even started school. I used it once or twice, only with his help, but I was proud.

For Christmas when I was 27, my dad gave me a cordless drill. A male friend of mine got a microwave from his parents. We both laughed. But really, they were the perfect gifts for both of us. He had tons of tools already; I had all my kitchen stuff.

In my 20s, I felt pretty handy. I drilled holes to hang shelves, took down walls, did lots of painting, replaced light fixtures, hung blinds – basically whatever little fixes needed to be done, I was on them. But then I got myself a man, and he took over all those tasks. It wasn’t about sexism or machosim or anything. Jim, like me, liked to fix and build things, and he was good at it. Better than me, to be honest. Or at least more careful and precise. So, the handyman stuff went on his chores list (with the laundry, for the record – we didn’t have a totally gendered division of labour.)

So now I find myself back in the position of doing the handy(wo)man things. And although I’d love to be able to move those chores off my terribly long list and hand them off to someone else, I am actually enjoying getting hands-on with my power tools once again.

Other than hanging a few pictures last month (harder than it sounds with plaster walls), my first real “fix” involved adding a slide lock to our laundry room door. Just whom am I trying to keep out, you might ask? This beast:

I love Maxi, but she can be a real pest. Her greatest goal in life is to find her way into the laundry room when no one’s looking, so she can eat the cats’ food. And explore in their litter box. (Gross!!!!!) Jim put a cat flap in the door years ago, so cats had access, but not dogs. Maxi did manage to get in through it when we first got her, although she couldn’t manage to get back out. Now she’s quite a bit heavier and can’t sneak through anymore, so she watches for someone to accidentally leave the door open. I guess that wasn’t happening quite ofter enough, because she recently started butting her head at the door to break in. And she somehow managed to mess up the door knob enough that the door now no longer stays closed on its own.

I debated replacing the door knob, but decided instead to just quickly install a slide lock. Four screws, one small hole to drill. Just a bit of sawdust to vacuum up. And, voila!

Need a slide lock? I can do that.

I will admit that my drill hole was off ever-so-slightly, and I had to make some adjustments, but overall I am pretty pleased with myself. And now the cats may eat, as the dog can no longer get in. I have seen her try, and may or may not have laughed evilly at her as she butted her head against the now immovable door.

Power tools make me happy

Now, on to my next project. My office. I am hoping to get it cleared out next week so I can start painting. Then I have shelves to stain and hang, a whiteboard to put up, and a few other touches. I think the blinds need replacing too. It’s all completely within my capabilities – if I can only find the time! Wish me luck 🙂

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Goat Cheese Appetizer Bites {recipe}

This is one of those recipes that have become staples in my repertoire. It originally appeared in Bon Appetit, in May 1995. This was during my grad school days, with many Sunday night dinners hosted by my friend Lezlie. She subscribed to Bon Appetit and lovingly tested out new recipes with us as her willing guinea pigs. This one was such a hit, it made many repeat appearances, and has become my go-to when asked to bring an appetizer to any get-together.

Unfortunately, Bon Appetit/Epicurious do not have this recipe in their online collection, so I’ll share it with you here, in the way I do it. I believe the original calls for a 9oz package of goat cheese, but in the Canadian market, this translates most closely to the 300g package (the larger one you’ll see in the supermarket).

These bites are super easy to make, though a little messy to put together. They are very rich in taste, so you only need a couple to feel satisfied. Note – wonton wrappers seem to only come in a double package, with 48 wrappers. You can easily double this recipe to fill all the wrappers, or freeze the second half of the pack for later use, if you just want 24.

Goat Cheese Appetizer Bites

You will need:
300g pkg plain goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

24 wonton wrappers (half of a package)

1 beaten egg for sealing
1/4 cup (approx) canola oil for frying

Directions

Crumble the goat cheese into a small bowl. Add in next six ingredients and mix well.
Lay out your first wonton wrapper. Take a spoonful of the filling and spread along one edge of the wrapper. Fold in the sides, and roll to cover and close, like filling a burrito.
Pinch the edges and brush with egg to seal.
Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
Heat canola oil on medium high. Shallow fry, turning once, until nicely brown on both sides.
Remove and drain on paper towels.
Bon Appetit recommended serving these hot, and they are great that way, but I usually serve them at room temperature.

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My Christmas Wreath Adventure

Well, I finally finished the wreath project I showed you last week. I really do love to craft, and need to make more time for it. This time of year gives me an extra push to get creative, and sometimes I get in a little over my head. This isn’t entirely one of those times, but I did find this project a lot more involved than I expected.

I blame Pinterest. And those time lapse DIY videos. Perhaps I should have done a little more research and preparation before I dove in, but that’s just not the way I roll. “Looks pretty straightforward. I have a glue gun. Let’s do this thing!”

First off, here is the finished project:

I do love the final effect, and it looks great from a distance, or in pictures. But when you get up close you see this:

Lots of gaps where the foam wreath form shows through. At least it’s green and kinda blends in. But this illustrates the base frustration with this project. Everything is round. And round things don’t fit together nicely; there will always be a gap.

Sigh.

Of course, this is common sense, and I should havve realised I needed to do a more careful plan, but, again, that’s not me. I needed a ton more balls than I thought I would, and definitely needed a variety of sizes to get the gaps covered up. If I do one again (and I’ve had a couple of requests), I’ll be better prepared, which is really why I’m telling you all about it today – so you can be too!

I’m not going to give you a step-by-step project guide here, mostly because I was just winging it. Also because folks far more talented than I have already covered this well. You’ll find a ton of how-tos on Pinterest. The basic idea is get a wreath form, hot glue gun balls around the inside, then the outside, then layer up with balls of varying sizes to fill all the holes. You can wrap a ribbon around the wreath to hang, weave it in under the balls when you’re done, or affix the ribbon first before you start gluing. Depends on who you ask.

Tips from me:

When you start out, lay out the balls around the inner circle BEFORE you start gluing. I just happily glued away until the end, where I ended up with an awkward gap not big enough for another ball. Do the same for the outside. Just space a tiny bit between the balls all around to make it even. (My eldest, studying construction management, suggested I should do actual measurements. Yeah, right.)

Use a low heat on your glue gun to avoid melting the foam form or cracking the plastic balls.

Use plastic balls.

Once the inner and outer circles are done, I found it best to build up a small area first, then move to the next. But do what works for you.

You will need way more balls than you think you will. Depending on the size of your wreath, probably 100.

You will need lots of smaller balls to fill in the gaps. Maybe try for three different sizes.

You will use tons of glue sticks. Have a good stock on hand.

Be prepared to spend the next week cleaning up glitter off your floor and clothes. Glue gun webs as well. I found my wreath was covered with fine strands of glue that I had to clean off before I could be happy with it. I was pretty covered as well.

Overall, this is a super easy project. Slap on some glue, stick on a ball. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. It does take a long time, you do need to put in more initial thought than I did, and it is easy to get carried away. Be careful as you are filling gaps and building up that you don’t create a big bulge on one side, or you’ll perhaps end up back at the craft store looking for more balls so you can build up the other side.

Another tip – the supplies can get really expensive. I estimate (because I made more than one trip to the store) that this wreath was about $40, plus my time. And I purchased the balls at Michael’s on a good sale, with an extra coupon. So, if you are thinking about doing one of these, I suggest costing it out and comparing to the cost of buying one ready made. Don’t forget to consider your time commitment, on the negative side, as well as the feeling of pride and accomplishment in having created something so beautiful, on the positive.

Will I do one again? I said no, but I think I could change my mind. I’ll keep my eyes open for great deals on the balls after Christmas, and maybe check thrift stores as well. A homemade wreath would make a nice gift next year, don’t you think?