Monthly Archives: July 2014

Painting our fireplace!

Painting our fireplace!

I love our house. It isn’t perfect, and there have been a few surprises since we have moved in, but I think we have changed a lot so that it works for us. But, I have hated this fireplace since the first day I saw it. It is dark, ugly and outdated. I have been wanting to take a sledge hammer to it for years, just to see what it underneath it, but John has been holding me back… he said he didn’t want a huge hole in the wall until we know how to rebuild it…. can you believe him??? Anyways, last week we had someone come to take a look at it and they said it might be structural, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that he held me back…just don’t tell him that!
So, since we can’t tear it down, we have the option of building over, or around it, or painting it. Since neither of us has any idea how to build over it, we decided paint would be our temporary (but most likely permanent) solution.
Here is what the fireplace and our family room looked like last week:


What I should tell you is that the proper way to paint your fireplace is to use a masonry paint with primer and paint in one, but I’m going to be honest here and tell you that I just used the paint I had left over from painting the furniture. It might not have been the best decision….I’ll let you know in a couple months…. but I had 3/4 of the can left after painting all of the furniture, so I thought I would give it a shot.
It took a few hours, but luckily, I had some great helpers!

The kids had fun and tried out several brushes, and even used a toothbrush! We discovered that the brushes with the stiffer bristles worked better. The trick is to somehow get the paint into all the little cracks and holes of the brick.
I should tell you that when I first started painting, I thought I would try to make the paint transparent. So, I added a little water. Here is what it looked like:


I wasn’t crazy about the way it looked. It was hard to paint the bricks so they all looked even and in the end I decided the it looked better if the paint was opaque. So we ended up using the paint straight from the can.

What I should also tell you is that before you start, the proper way to fill any holes you might have in the bricks or mortar, is to mix up a small amount of cement, fill the holes then wait 24 hours for it to cure. But here is what I did….
Here are what the holes looked like before:

And here is my temporary (but probably permanent) solution:

Yup, that’s right, I used a tissue! I know, a little disgusting, and a little brilliant, right? I ripped off a little piece at a time, stuffed the holes…

Then painted over them. Laugh if you must, but check out the results:

Now, there was still the matter of the ugly brass doors on the fireplace. It took unscrewing four little screws and a bottle of heat proof spray paint to solve that problem!
I taped the glass with masking tape…

Then took it out to the backyard, and laid it out on a tarp. I found a heatproof spray paint and primer, and sprayed two light coats…

Here is the finished fireplace…





My only regret is why did we wait five years to do this?? You might also notice that we moved the TV and changed the wall colour too. We also spent the day yesterday painting the walls, but, that’s a story for another day 🙂

Refinishing a Coffee Table

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.

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!



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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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

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!

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

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!



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:

20140712-202153.jpg … which I sanded and refinished.. And, I started painting the headboard and bedside table from the spare room too! I’ll update with new photos when I am done… Here is the coffee table now, I just have to add the drawer pull.




Cupcake decorating party


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.

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.

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.

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

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…)



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.


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:

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.

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:

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…)

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.