Refinishing a Coffee Table

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Refinishing a Coffee Table

Because my husband and I are both teachers, we tend to let jobs around the house build up and we save them for the summer. We are so busy during the year, especially during May and June, that I normally have a huge list by the beginning of July! However, we started the first day of our vacation this summer with the air conditioner breaking down, so the unexpected cost of replacing the whole system has eaten into our summer plans a little. I have been trying to focus on getting little jobs done rather than taking a sledge hammer to the fireplace, or ripping out the vanity in the bathroom (which have both taken a lot of willpower to not do, on my part, by the way)

One of the jobs on my list is to look at our furniture in the house. What pieces do we need, what pieces could use some updating? I have had my eye on buying a new coffee table for a while now, but I haven’t been able to find one I liked for a price that I liked. This was the sort of look that I was going for… but the price of almost $550 didn’t really work for me.

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So, when I saw this coffee table on Kijiji last week, I thought the design was perfect. The only problem was that it needed a little fixing up. As you can see in the photos below, the table top was in pretty rough shape. a lot of paint and scratches and wear. They were asking $50, but I ended up paying them $40….score!

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I started by sanding the top. I used a rough grain sandpaper to start with my sander. The rough sandpaper removes most of the varnish. I tried to only sand in the direction of the grain, everything you read about sanding and staining wood always emphasizes to go with the grain.
Then, to smooth out the surface, I used a finer grade sandpaper (220 grit). I made sure that I sanded all of the varnish off. If you get a clean dry cloth and wipe it every few minutes, you can see where there is still varnish left.

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To sand the table top, I sanded until I removed all of the varnish right down to the wood surface, because my plan was to stain the top. But, because I only planned to paint the bottom, I gave the bottom half a quick sanding with the mouse sander to remove the shine off the top layer, and scratch off the surface, not to go right to the wood.

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Then, I started staining the top, I used a stain with a varnish built it, so no varnishing needed after… (or so I thought) It started out really well, I carefully brushed the stain on in the direction of the woodgrain. It looked pretty good, but then on the second coat, it went really downhill. It looked really uneven and the brush started wiping off all of the stain. Where my brush overlapped, the stain was too dark, and in other areas it wasn’t dark enough. Maybe I didn’t wait long enough for the first coat to dry, or maybe each coat was too thick, but to make a long story short, I ended up scraping the whole top down, re sanding, and starting again. The second time I used a rag to apply the stain so i applied it a lot thinner, and wiped all of the excess off.

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As you can see, I did a quarter at a time and worked with the grain.
I did two thin coats like this, and i was really pleased with the way it looked. The only issue was that because I had applied it so thin, I thought it needed more protection. Knowing my family, I can only assume that this poor table top will be subjected to a variety of elements including dirt, water, milk, jam, cookie crumbs, sand, etc. So, I decided to add a couple coats of clear varnish. I used a satin finish varnish because I didn’t want it to be too shiny.

When I was waiting for the stain and varnish to dry, I painted the base white. I used a water based paint by Behr (my favourite brand, wouldn’t use anything else) and picked a shade called, “Cottage white” The thing I love about this paint, is that it has the primer and paint in one. It does need a couple coats, but because it is water based, it’s easy to clean up.

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I let everything dry for a day, then applied another coat of varnish, and decided to antique the base to make it look more aged. Here is what the side of the table looked like before:

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I dipped a small brush in the same stain I used for the top and painted all of the cracks and seams.

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Then, I used a clean rag to wipe the excess stain off. I did one area at a time, and sometimes had to reapply and wipe off a couple times until I got the look I wanted, but I was really pleased with the result!

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I even tried using a tooth brush to add some splatters…

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But, then John came along to admire my handiwork, and pointed out a couple places where I had dripped paint….which made me rethink the visual appeal of my splattering technique, so I ended up wiping off the splatters.
I finished adding the stain to the whole table, then added the new drawer pulls. I was so pleased with the finished product!

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As a matter of fact, I liked it so much, I walked around the house looking for other stuff to repaint. I found this old coffee table (I think John and I bought this cheap table when we first moved in together …15 years ago…) Here is the table before:

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Cupcake decorating party

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Sam and I decided that for her birthday party, we needed a little craft or activity for the kids to do. I thought that a jewelry party would be a great idea, but Sam overruled that idea…. I missed the days when I could pick the theme, or talk them into thinking my theme was their idea :)… anyways, we both agreed that decorating cupcakes would be a fun idea. It worked really well, the kids enjoyed it and all went home with a few cupcakes too!
As with many of my cooking and baking crafts, it all started with a trip to the local Bulk Barn… We picked out a bunch of sprinkles and toppings. I also picked out some candy eyes, and lips so they could make faces, and some oreo cookie crumbs, and gummy worms so they could make dirt and worm cupcakes. Then I arranged them in plastic containers from the dollar store.

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Here is the dining room table set to go. I gave each child a knife, and plate, and as you can see, we bought little boxes to use to take their cupcakes home.

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I also put a couple tablespoons of icing in a sandwich bag for each child, then snipped off the corner to use as icing bags.

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And filled a couple piping bags, and tubes of icing.

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We were expecting about 12 girls, so I made two cake mixes, which made 24 cupcakes, or 4 for each girl.
Here are a few photos… (just of Sam…didn’t want to publish pictures of other girls without permission…)

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The girls seemed really pleased with their cupcakes, and were happy to take a few home too!
Even Dylan and a couple of his friends came in (once the girls were gone) and decorated a few… Although their goal was not to create a cute looking cupcake, but rather how to pack as much icing and candies on as possible…lol
Overall, the idea worked really well, not only did it keep the kids busy, it also saved me a lot of time, not having to make and ice a cake!

How to change an outdoor light.

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I have to confess, I have always been a little terrified of electricity. I suppose my parents did a good job of installing a healthy dose of fear about playing with electrical sockets.
As an adult, I was pretty amazed at how easy it is to change a light fixture, I thought it was a lot more complicated, but turns out it takes just a little courage, common sense, and about 10 to 15 minutes. I will also give my husband full credit here, all of the photos I took of are of him (hence the hairy arms)
The first, and without a doubt, the most important step is to switch off the power at the fuse box. If you are not sure which switch controls the light fixture you are replacing, turn on the light, and keep turning off fuses until the light goes off. This step goes a lot faster if you have a partner that can yell to you when the light goes off. Once you are sure you have turned off the right switch, turn off the light switch at the wall too (Not sure if this does anything, but it’s not going to do any harm, right?)
Here is what our outdoor lights looked like before:

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I’m sure they were very nice lights at one point, but to be honest, we couldn’t even figure out how to change the lightbulbs- I think you have to unscrew part of the light to get the bulb out… anyways, after four years, it is about time we replaced them! The new ones we picked even have a sensor that will turn them on automatically at dusk!
The first step is to unscrew the existing light fixture. This one had a motion sensor attached to it, so we had to disconnect that too.

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Once you have the fixture unscrewed, you have to disconnect the wires. There should be a white wire, a black wire, and a copper wire. All three wires will be attached to their corresponding wires at the wall and should have plastic caps. You can remove the caps by unscrewing them.
Once we removed the light, this is what the box looked like inside:

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There were a few coccoons, a couple spiders, and what looked like the start of a couple wasps nest…great.
So, John cleaned everything out. (Yes, I am giving him credit again…)

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Some boxes will already have a mount, or bracket, but for some reason, this one didn’t, so we needed to attach it to the box. The mounts normally come with the new light fixtures, and the box already has holes to accommodate the mount, so it is just a matter of screwing the two screws in, then making sure it is level.

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The next step is to connect the wires from the wall to your new fixture. On all light fixtures, there are three wires, a black one, a white one, and a copper one which is the grounding wire. Pay attention closely…attach the black to the black, and the white to the white. Yup. Twist the ends together making sure the metal ends from both wires are touching.

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Then, screw the plastic caps on the ends of both pairs of wires.
Next step is to connect the grounding wires, which are the uninsulated bare copper wires. These wires should be attached to the housing, or wall mount, in this one, there was a blue screw marked ground. Wrap the grounding wire around this screw, and tighten it using a screw driver.

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The last step is to attach the light. Two little screws is all it takes. Tighten them up as much as you can, and you are good to go! Go and turn the fuse back on and test the light to make sure it works.

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Here is the best part… here is what the lights look like at night! We ended up putting three up in the front, and one in the back of the house.

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Going bananas!

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They have a snack program at my school, where the school provides healthy snacks every morning. Every time they have leftover bananas that get too ripe, they toss them in the freezer. So, now it is the last week of school, and they are trying to get rid of all of the bananas….my lucky day!
I do have a few banana bread recipes but I was not sure how they would turn out with frozen bananas…anyone know if the recipe will turn out the same? Anyways, I like to try new things, so I thought why not try a new banana bread recipe? Yolo right? So, I found this recipe that used frozen bananas….here is the link to the blog…
banana bread recipe
Here is the recipe from the website, and the changes that I made in brackets…
3 bananas – (I used 5 bananas)
1 cup of white sugar (I used 1/3 cup of brown, and 1/3 cup of white sugar)
2 eggs
3 tablespoons of milk
1/4 cup of melted butter ( I used a couple tablespoons of oil)
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups of flour
I added a teaspoon of vanilla too!
Although I didn’t follow the recipe exactly ( I know….I don’t think I have ever actually followed a recipe exactly before…) but what I did like about this particular recipe was that you mix everything together in one bowl, then you add the flour to the same bowl gradually. You don’t have to dirty two bowls, and I am all over that!
The recipe said to beat the eggs first, so I added the eggs in the bowl first, and beat them, then added the rest of the ingredients. (Once again, the logic was pure laziness…just didn’t want to dirty another bowl by beating the eggs)

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Then I added the rest of the ingredients…and slowly mixed in the flour at the end…

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Almost forgot about the chocolate chips! I don’t think I have baked that many things without chocolate chips since john and I started dating…

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Then, I spooned the batter into muffin liners, and these cool paper loaf pans I found at the dollar store…

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I ended up making three batches last night. I figured that once I have all of the ingredients out, and the bowls dirty, I might as well make a couple batches.

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Three batches made 6 loaves, 24 cupcakes, and another small loaf.
They turned out moist, flavourful, and really good. I will make these again!
I actually put the loaves into bags with a little ribbon for gifts for a few people at work.

We’re gonna have a baby!! (two actually!)

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We’re gonna have a baby!! (two actually!)

OK, before I freak out everyone I know, maybe I should clarify… I am not the one expecting…. (thank you lord!)…

Let me tell the story from the start. We are going to have baby birds!

Dylan and I noticed a couple weeks ago that a robin was trying to build a nest on an outdoor light outside his bedroom window. We watched it fly up with bits in his beak over and over.
Then we would watch as a gentle breeze would blow it right off of the light onto the patio. Here are some of the nest bits on the patio…

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The robin would just start again, and again and again. Over a week, we probably watched it restart the nest at least 10 times. I couldn’t decide whether to laugh at the stupid bird or feel sorry for it.

But, my compassionate side took over. So, I got John to help me dig out the tall ladder. Even though I am afraid of heights, I braved the extreme heights, an risked my life to help this stupid bird. (My wonderfully supportive husband held the ladder in case you were wondering…he didn’t think I was being crazy at all….) The window beside the light is Dylan’s room.

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Here is a close up of the light I took when I got to the top of the ladder, you can see a few of its failed nesting attempts hanging off the sides.

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I have to admit that this isn’t by far my prettiest work, but as I said, I’m not a fan of heights, so when I was on the top step of the ladder, leaning over to reach the light, making it look pretty didn’t seem as important as staying alive (ok, that’s a tad dramatic, but still) I got a length of yellow rope and a metal bread basket, and I tied the breadbasket to the light. Once again, not pretty, but it did the job. Check out my handiwork!!

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So, we patiently waited a few days, and nothing! I was just a tad bitter that I had risked my life and all, but I tried to let it go, and move on with my life.
But, wait, that’s not the end of the story! Dylan noticed the other day that the robin was sitting in the basket! But, we couldn’t see what was happening inside.

So, naturally, I leaned out the window over the nest to take a quick picture, and….

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I saw the most perfectly made nest with two perfect little blue eggs! Isn’t it amazing! I would have taken a little longer to admire the miracle of nature, but the momma robin really didn’t appreciate me leaning out the window over her nest, she was making quite the racket! But, don’t worry, she’ll get used to it, she’s not going to get rid of me that easy!

My plan is to stick my phone out the window everyday until I see some baby birds…. don’t worry, I will be sure to share the pictures. You will be the first ones to know! Keep your fingers crossed though, we are expecting thunderstorms tomorrow.

Maybe I need to climb up the ladder again to rig something else up to extend the roof and keep the eggs dry, I’m sure John will think that’s a great idea :)

********UPDATE********
I was contemplating sending out birth announcements, but I thought I would write a post instead…. Look at the picture I took yesterday morning!!!

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I was hoping the other egg would have hatched today, but
I tried to take another picture just now and let me tell you, those robins can be vicious…. Don’t let their cute little beaks fool you! All I did was lean out the window and stick my arm out over their nest to take a photo… and both the male and female took turns dive bombing me!
I guess I don’t blame them.
But isn’t the baby adorable???

Greek style beans…mmmm

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Greek style beans…mmmm

In our house, we eat a lot of vegetables. It was a battle at times, especially at the 3 to 5 year old stage, but to not eat entire food groups has never been a option we have given our kids. We have always provided them with choices, and allowed them to like and not like certain foods, but we have always had the expectation that eating your dinner is just something everyone is expected to do. (How many of us grew up with the rule that you didn’t get up from the dinner table until your whole plate was finished… we turned out ok, right?) Another good strategy is to wait until they are hungry, then give them a bowl of vegetables first. Save the meat and other foods for after they have finished their vegetables, it’s amazing how they will eat when they are hungry. Sometimes, we even used to bring them a bowl of veggies to eat before dinner when they were watching tv. They were so in the “TV zone”, they would often just eat, and forget to even complain! Sorry, see what happens when I get started talking about food issues and parenting?? Anyways, now, that they are 9 and 10 years old, it’s not really an issue anymore, but we still have our favourite foods, but I also like to change it up a little once in a while.
Our usual way of serving green beans is to steam them in about an inch of water, then toss with a bit of oyster sauce. But, today I thought I would try something new!
I cooked the beans the same way as usual. I cut off all of the ends, washed the beans then cooked them for about 10 minutes in a pot with about an inch of water.

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Then I got out some feta cheese, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and greek seasoning.

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I added about a tablespoon of lemon juice, a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. A few tablespoons of feta cheese, and sprinkled a generous amount of greek seasoning on top. Tossed it all together and voila… green beans, greek style!

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They were delicious! I think they would even be really good cold, as a side salad. I can’t wait until we can use beans from the garden too. Did I already mention that this year, I planted all of my vegetables in pots beside the pool deck? If it works well, next year I might build planter boxes.

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How to Train your tree

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I have been working on my gardening skills lately, but let me tell you, I am by no means, by any stretch of the imagination a skilled gardener. Nor do I pretend to have any sort of knowledge about plants, or what to plant where. John and I sort of follow a trial and error gardening philosophy. I try planting new plants every year, and whatever doesn’t die by the end of the summer, I buy again (or it comes back on its own).
I tend to try to make up for my lack of gardening skills by adding other features, like little animals, or fancy stepping stones. This way your attention is drawn towards the cute little decorations, not the plants! Last year, I added a dry riverbed to our front garden. Who ever came up with that idea was a genius (no, I can’t take credit, but I love that you can landscape using things other than plants)
Here is what my front garden looks like now: (sorry, don’t know why the second pic is sideways)

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Look at the little hippo I found at the dollar store!

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Anyways, back to my lack of gardening skills….I’m just going to tell it like it is. Last year at some point, this bush started growing just through the bottom of our fence. So, I just let it grow to see what it would look like…you never know, right?

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It turns out that it was actually pretty ugly. But, it also grows incredibly fast. So, I thought why not try to train it to grow in a nicer shape. It is pretty flexible.
So, I pulled out a few scraps of wood I bought for something last year. I think they are bannister railing pieces for a deck. I laid them out and added a couple screws to each corner.

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Then I screwed it to the fence using a couple of screws.

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I split the branches into two and wired them to the frame. I used some plastic wrapped wire for plants from the dollar store.

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Then, after I tied the branches down in a few places, I started getting really creative… I screwed a couple more boards underneath because there was still a lot of branches sticking out.

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I tied the branches down, and using my pruners, I cut off any branches that were sticking out or facing the wrong way.

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Here is what it looked like after…

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The last thing I did was loop the ends together using some more wire.
I think it looks cute! I will post another picture in about a month or so after it has filled in some more. But here is what it looks like now…

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If anyone knows what kind of tree or bush this might be, let me know!

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