Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

" Wild Turkey," by John James Audubon, 1830

An ode to Christmas Dinner...

Dear Mr. Turkey,
At first you were quick
You tried to run away
You were happy being free range.
But then, the butcher caught you
And delivered you into my hands.
I introduced you to a new sort of range.
Three hours later, 
and I can barely move.
Little chance now
That I'll be fast enough to catch your friends!

With all the Christmas celebrations going on, I've been thinking this week about the opening scene in this cult classic, Die Feuerzangenbowle. It's Christmastime and the characters are sitting around a bowl of Feuerzangenbowle toasting their days together as schoolboys...I think it translates well even if you don't follow the dialogue at all!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas from here under the Christmas tree at The Do-tique!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solace on the Solstice

Alphonse Mucha, A Winter Tale (1917)

It is a bright, sunny day outside and not too cold, though wintry enough with a nice covering of snow. Hard to believe that today is the darkest day of the year. All the same, I have found something that has helped me to look forward celebrating today! I recently came across a beer from Montreal brewed specially for this occasion and since the sun will be "over the yardarm" earlier than usual today, I won't have to wait too much longer to enjoy...

Photo Credit: Filia Artis

My snowman is keeping a bottle of Solstice d'hiver by Dieu du Ciel! cold for me. 

The website explains: This noble winter beer is brown in colour with flaming red highlights. Its taste is delicately sweet and liquor-like with a hint of burnt caramel coming from the malt and a prolonged boiling time. It is a very bitter beer with aromas of hops and alcohol, and flavours reminiscent of red fruit brought by the English-type yeast we use to ferment it. The aftertaste is accentuated by the wonderful flavour of hops. Solstice d’Hiver is brewed only once a year, and is then aged for 4 to 5 months before being sold. This aging process is necessary to achieve an ideal equilibrium between the sharp bitterness and the other flavours in the beer. 

Hard to resist!

The good news? The days will start to get longer from here on forward! 

Happy Solstice!


Filia Artis

PS. The stereo is playing a mix CD entitled "Scotch on the Rocks" a friend once made for me. Full of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Nick Cave and other "life is tough" singers. Perfect for a "dark" day!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bread Goes Viral!

Are you friends with Sarah Richardson yet? We recently became Facebook buddies. Ok, well me and about oh 5,500 people! She has been baking some mysterious bread and uploading photos onto her profile. I say "mysterious" because her photos show the bread baking in covered casserole dishes. (For those who have never baked bread, this is highly unusual!)

Photo Credit: Sarah Richardson
Since today is going to be a bread and gingerbread making day - at least eventually...I was curious about Sarah's recipe. It turns out that she seems to be using a recipe that appeared in the New York Times recently.

It also turns out that I have another crafty friend, Corina, who just happened to email me the very same recipe last week. It is from Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery. You can view the recipe on my recipe page.

Photo Credit: Sarah Richardson

The finished product from Sarah's kitchen looked awesome. I mean really, does anything she makes look bad?

If you are a novice baker and hesitant about the kneading part or want to try out something kind of experimental, this sounds like an interesting recipe. From my perspective, the prep mess required to make this is about the same as regular bread and the time requirement, though mostly taken up by waiting, is a pretty big commitment. 

The temptation is that having heard about the recipe now from two different places in a single week is to take this as a sign from above that perhaps THIS is the bread to make.

I wonder how many kitchens are whipping up a batch as I speak thanks to the ease of sharing the recipe via the internet? Imagine how wide the recipe has spread in just a short amount of time thanks to Facebook posts, online newspapers, email and blogs? Truly amazing!

If you give this one a go, be sure to email or write in with a pic and I'll post your very own handy work on The Do-tique!

DIY Rating: 

Give it a try and let me know!
I'd say probably a 6. No-knead sounds easy, 
but 20 hours of rising time vs. 2 for normal bread 
seems like a bit of a pain.

PS. Besides being a crafty lady, Corina runs a great blog on writing and teaching children. Check her out at MyLuckyPencil!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter Solstice

Winter Horse Riding

We are coming up to the darkest days of the year this week with the Winter Solstice occurring on December 21st (Tuesday). 

I was listening to some beautiful music on CBC radio this afternoon live from Háteigs Church, Reykjavík, Iceland. It is the perfect time of year to think about Iceland, since they are so close to the Arctic Circle and the contrast between the darkness of the days and the light of Christmas is so stark. (Yes, Canada is kind of an Arctic Circle sort of place too, but let's face it, most Canadians live pretty far from it, which is not the case for the Icelandic people!)

Music samples are at Amazon.

The feast day of the patron saint and only native saint of Iceland, St. Thorlakur Thornalli (1133-1193), is also celebrated this week on December 23. He happens to have lived during my favourite century, by the way. The traditional celebrations very much resemble my own plans for this week.

According to Wikipedia, St. Thorlak's Day (Þorláksmessa) is considered the last day of preparations before Christmas. Therefore, on St. Thorlak's Day, the house is cleaned and preparations for the Christmas meal are begun. Most people in Reykjavík go into town in the night to meet others and do the last shopping before Christmas. Fish was usually eaten on Þorláksmessa since December 23 was the last day of the Catholic Christmas fast.

Speaking of Christmas fasts and Advent, did you know that beer is traditionally a penitential drink especially appropriate for Advent and Lent? My favorite right now is the Great Lakes Brewery Winter Beer.

I guess it's time to get back to all that house cleaning, meal preparing, present wrapping and beer drinking and in the name of St. Thorlak, enjoy this last week of Advent!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Whaz' Up?

Photo Credit: SuperStock


1. When is the last time your kitchen looked this clean?
A. Yesterday, my cleaning lady came. It lasted an hour.

2. When is the last time you wore heels in your kitchen?
A. It hasn't happened yet.

And now, for a little update from The Do-tique...

We are all a bit in shock that Christmas is only a week away! The tree is up and has stayed up with almost no damage inflicted by Baby (yet!). Oh, I'm so glad that I have a girl and not a little boy! The Nativity scene is also displayed and we've sent all our Christmas cards and I even had time to build a little drinks bar to spread some festive sauce (uh, I mean Cheer!).

All Photos: Filia Artis

The cookie baking bonanza has also begun. And yes, I looked at the Martha Stewart Christmas book. I even brought it home from the library. However, Hubby has forbidden me from trying to make the victorian cottage out of gingerbread. 

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

A few years ago, I attempted just the dutch townhouse gingerbread cookies from this Martha cake. It was an eight hour process for one batch of cookies. (This cake gets a DIY Rating of 1! Don't go there unless you really, really like baking!)

Photo Credit and Recipe: Martha Stewart

There was once a blogger in Holland who was brave enough to make this cake herself. Check out Heleen's awesome work at Cookie Journey

If you're looking for a much more idiot-proof type of Christmas cookie, I can suggest these sugar cookies from Joy of Baking. I made them last night and they are very straightforward. My strategy is to do a few cookie dough batches in advance of Christmas and then freeze or refrigerate until closer to the date and save the rolling and baking for then.

Another easy recipe that has been suggested to me by Maureen in my craft group is this one for No-Fail Sugar N' Spice cookies. It is supposed to be resistant to damage from rolling and re-rolling and generally being over-handled by children.

Top tips for Christmas cookies - use unsalted butter and use lots of it! When the recipe says "cream" they mean it, so make sure your butter is nice and fluffy before proceeding to the next step. Handling the dough too much is what makes for tough cookies - tread lightly with your fingers! Finally, when in doubt, hit up the bakery! Nothing like home-faked if it means avoiding a pre-Christmas stress attack!

In other news...

The big DIY project of the month has been the job of exploring and researching the idea of starting my own business or at least a new way of doing business as an employee. I am inspired by all the other mother-bloggers out there who are raising children and running successful businesses. The main goal is to find a way of continuing my career that is somewhat compatible with family life. I don't believe there is really such a thing as a perfect "work-life balance," it will always be a game of tug and pull, but I do believe there can be a better way for women to make it function. Any tips or ideas or suggestions are welcome!

DIY Ratings:

O for wearing high heels to clean the house,

10 for setting up a festive holiday bar at home,

7 for easy cookies, but 10 for home faking if you hate home baking!

Readers can assign a DIY rating for me on the business idea...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Welcome to Canada!

Warning Note: Christmas Gift Spoilers!
If you are Hubby or on my card list, you may not want to read further...

1939 Map of Canada                             Image Credit: Etsy

Though I mentioned earlier that we are observing Advent and trying not to get too caught up in "Crazy Preparation for Christmas Commercial Season," I decided to get going on my Christmas shopping yesterday, which officially counts as a commercial Christmas preparation activity.

My shopping often begins with a trip to the mall. I rarely buy much at the mall, but it satisfies my curiosity and confirms my usual feeling that there is little there of interest to me. 

For the first time, I decided to try out online shopping this year. It is something that is pretty established in the US, but really hadn't fully taken root in Canada. Most of my favorite stores didn't ship to Canada and often the websites were cumbersome and the shipping costs unaffordable. Maybe you are one of those people who have an auntie or friend with a US shipping address who hordes your online purchases until your next visit???

This year, a new world has dawned and yes, the times have definitely changed! I would say that if you already have an idea of what you are looking for this year, online shopping is absolutely the way to go! This new world offers discounts, prices in Canadian dollars, free shipping and quick and easy to use websites. I'm so much happier at home in front of my tree than I would be slogging through a busy parking lot.

The other innovation in our fair country, which has brought us up to the US standard, is that most of the retailers will now allow you to return the items ordered online to their store locations, so there is no concern about having to pay for return shipping.

A big tip that I would give is to search online for coupon codes before hitting the checkout button. I was amazed to pick up a 25% and a 10% off code by searching the name of the store and "online coupon code 2010" on google!

My first online purchase of the year was the Christmas cards that I ordered from Tiny Prints. Free shipping and a $10 discount for personalized cards that I didn't have to drive anywhere to get. They arrived on time and I'm delighted with the outcome. The only downside is that 30 cards cost me about $50, so more than a boxed set on sale, but about right for something personalized and custom ordered.

Next, I tried out Sears which has free shipping right now and some sales. It went very smoothly and I found the exact sleigh for Baby that I wanted and that I was having trouble finding in the stores. I wish that The Bay would get with the online shopping program since they are so big into gift registries!

One of the newest retailers in the Canadian market is Gap, which also sells Old Navy and Banana Republic. They were offering free shipping on orders of $50 or more, the items I wanted were on sale, I picked up some further discount codes and they have in-store returns. 

Photo Credit: Getty

Next on the list, classic online retailers and Both had free shipping on orders over $25 and the pricing on the actual items was good on each site. An advantage is that they sell such a wide variety of items that you can cover almost all your books, music, toys, electronics and accessories in one place!

Prezies for Hubby...Done!

Image Credit: Kidscreen

All this multi-national commercial online retailing aside, I also love being able to go to the downtown shopping area and find specialty items that aren't available anywhere else. Since I like having stores in that part of town, I do my best to support them by shopping there as much as possible. We've picked up a few handmade wooden toys in the farmer's market and at the independent toy shop as well as some hand knitted items from another store. I also try to support the local butcher and baker by skipping those items at the supermarket and relying on their businesses.

Now, if only the Beer Store and the LCBO would get into online retail...Have you ever shopped at the liquor store before 10am on a weekday? I tried it today just to beat the Friday afternoon holiday crowds. It is a very, very strange experience! Apparently most of the customers were using their pockets rather than shopping bags to transport their goods home!

DIY Rating: 8 for Christmas shopping online

It has gotten a lot easier and more affordable in 
Canada compared to a year or two ago.

Mix up online shopping for generic items with some specialty shopping 
in your local neighborhood and avoid a major trip to the mall!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Image Credit: Getty

In case you are still shopping for a tree skirt to complete your ultimate Christmas tannenbaum, I have spotted some nice looking ones at Zellers in the Alfred Sung Home collection and at The Bay. All Christmas decor is on sale at The Bay right now and both stores had some pretty decorations!

Happy hunting!

Filia Artis

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Do Not Attempt at Home

So just a quick note for today...

Hubby decided to get an early start this morning on the office closet which we're turning into a printing and filing station. I was proud of him and grateful since I've been hoping to get this project done for a while. At the same time, he used a power sander to smooth his plaster patch-up work without removing anything from the room or sealing the area off or putting down a drop cloth. Now, I've got at least a day's worth of dust to clean up from the living room, dining room and kitchen let alone the office, which is full of book shelves and paperwork.

Do you ever feel like home improvements are all about one step forward and one step backward all at the same time?

My good friend once reminded me, "They do this to say they love you."

DIY Rating: 0

If you're a handy hubby, always check with your wife before doing a messy job. 
She'll either tell you how to minimize the mess or if she approves 
your approach, you can tell her it was her idea to do it that way
and hope for the best!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reader Question: Tree Skirt

Vintage Ornaments Advent Calendar

Dear Mistress of Home Decor,

I need advice. We need to buy a "tree skirt" for our Christmas tree. I've looked at the ones at Canadian Tire, and they are functional, but nearly as ugly as sin. Can you think of a store that might sell Christmas tree stands and skirts that have some aesthetic appeal?

I received the missive above from a loyal reader recently and thought that I would share the advice that I gave to him here. 

To address the easy part of the question first, we bought our tree stand about two years ago from Canadian Tire and were extremely satisfied with it. As one person commented online, "it should be called the Marriagesaver." Easy to use, easy to store because the legs come off and the tree didn't fall over. Just a bit pricey at $30+ since it's really just plastic.

The Omega Tree Stand
My first instinct here would be to head to HomeSense. Their merchandise tends to be a hodge-podge of styles, but usually there is at least something luxurious and traditional looking if you happen to be there on the right day. As I clarified for my reader, it is not the same as Home Outfitters but possibly the same as Home Goods (in the US) - not confusing in the least!

The Bay in Toronto at Yonge and Bloor always has a lovely Christmas section and might be a good place to try. I also saw some awesome red velvet skirts and other pretty decorations last night at Loblaws.

I was surprised to find that Restoration Hardware didn't have any on their website and that the selection at Pottery Barn is limited and very pricey!

And then there is my favorite Christmas decor theme-park, IKEA! I would suggest just doing a one-stop shop right there for your decorations! Sadly, of all the interesting decorations that IKEA sells, they did not seem to have a tree skirt on their website. I would offer this up as an idea - purchase a throw blanket and drape it around the bottom of your tree.
Felicia Throw - at $14.99, a good option for a DIY tree skirt!

Finally, you might head for a fabric store and create your own tree skirt. I know, I know, is this going to involve sewing?? The answer is not necessarily. The first option would be to take the fabric and cut it into the correct shape and try to use fabric glue or iron-on tape to close up the ends. The second option is just to creatively drape the fabric so that the ends are folded under and concealed. Since it's not a garment, it doesn't really matter if the ends are unfinished. Some nice red satin or velvet or even a piece of coarsely woven linen?

Fabric samples from Designer Fabrics

I once had a full-length, red satin bridesmaid's dress shortened to calf length and then used the cut off part as a tree skirt by just folding the cut end under and draping the rest around the base of the tree. For a tree skirt on the cheap, you can always try to see if there is a curtain or sheet or blanket or fabric remnant at your local thrift shop in a desirable color and see if you can use that to cover up the bottom of the tree.

I keep thinking that it's a bit early to set up a Christmas tree, but the live ones seem to be for sale all over town, so I'm wondering whether perhaps it IS time to get going on this? When do you set yours up?

DIY Rating: 7
I hope I have given my shopping-phobic readers a few options here 
both in terms of where to look and how to "Macgyver" something 
themselves using a little creativity!

This is a hard decision and the shopping part can be painful, 
but luckily, whatever you choose should last a number of years!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Miscellaneous Purse Panic

Image Credit: New York Times

I was struck by this image a number of months ago when I saw it in a magazine. It is an advertisement for Louis Vuitton showing Gorbachev in a limousine with one of their bags. I found the whole ad a bit odd at the time, but it is definitely thought-provoking advertising. Even at a superficial level, it is a novel idea to use a middle-aged man (let alone a public political figure) to sell designer handbags to women.

It came to mind this evening as I was thinking about my afternoon. I never thought it would come to this, but I had a moment of panic in Starbucks when I couldn't remember exactly where I'd place my purse. (Yes, my mother would have these panics when we were kids and it used to drive me nuts back then!) It was only momentary and the bag was right beside me, but if you ever have this feeling, you'll know it's a terrible one! I'm blaming it all on lack of sleep. 

Though I'm not a crazy designer purse collecting woman, it's amazing how much a part of life a simple leather bag can be. I'd lost mine once at a highway road stop and was pretty much useless for a week as I'd lost my house keys, wallet and phone. I think LV is playing on the importance of their bag by placing it almost as an indispensable companion to an important icon.

I realize this is a bit of a digressive post so I'll end with a music video to complete the wacky ride! I was thinking of "panic" and wanted to share this video which I've always loved and which I just happened to remember tonight for the first time in a while. It kind of cheered me up in a strange way...

Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Murder on the Dancefloor

DIY Rating: Numbers cannot express
the value of keeping your purse in sight at all times 
and of avoiding getting murdered at a dance contest!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Cards

The first commercially produced Christmas Card (London, 1843)
Image Credit: Wikipedia

For the very first time, I decided it might be a good idea to start thinking about Christmas cards a bit earlier than usual. Typically, it only dawns on me sometime around December 23rd that I should get going on that project!

Thanks to a tip on Rambling Renovators, I decided to try making my own cards this year the "New Fashioned Way," that is, online. J. at Rambling Renovators has used Tiny Prints in the past to make cute cards and I thought I would give the site a try.

I've looked at a few different sites this week that offer a similar service and I have to say that I like the designs and ease of use on Tiny Prints the best so far. My only difficulty was in uploading photos directly from iPhoto. I had to upload them onto Picassaweb, where I have an account, and then pull them from there. If you don't use iPhoto or have most of your photos online on Facebook or Picassa (etc.) already, you shouldn't have any trouble.

Here are some mockups so far, though I am keeping the one we'll actually send a secret for now:

One of the best parts is that you get something that is personalized without having to take on a major DIY project and they will even address and mail them to your friends if you have your list ready. There is a promotion on right now for these in case it is something you might think about doing! 

DIY Rating: 8
Took some time to pick out a design and the photos, 
but overall, one of the better websites for this type of thing 
and the cards were fun to make. 

My only criticism is that iPhoto was not well supported.

PS. This is not a paid promotion!

PPS. All photos are the property of Filia Artis at The Do-tique, please do not use or reproduce without permission.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting Ready with Eddie!

Decorator Station, North Pole

From: Filia Artis
The Do-tique
Kingston, Ontario

Dear Eddie, 

Your video on using materials from K-Mart to decorate for Christmas this year reminded me of my childhood. My parents saved the packaging from their K-Mart decorations from the 1970s and used them to store those decorations for years!

I had a nightmare recently that I decorated my whole house and you were coming over to visit, but then when you got here, all the decorations had disappeared!! I hope this never happens!

Thank you for your awesome ideas on how to use artificial wreaths and garlands and make them look great! The Christmas Elves here at The Do-tique will be briefed later this afternoon and I expect they will get to work very soon!

Please tell Santa that I have been a good little homemaker.

Your Reader, 

Filia Artis at The Do-tique

Holiday Planter

British Christmas Card (1880) 

I love the mistletoe wreath in the illustration. Mistletoe doesn't actually grow in Canada, and since it is a parasitic plant, it may even be banned here, which is why it is rarely seen at Christmastime. When I lived in Germany, it was a novelty for me to see it being sold at the Christmas Markets in town.

Since it is officially Advent, it's time to get started on some decorating around the house. I did put up my first outdoor decoration yesterday. I can't resist putting up fresh evergreen garlands and wreaths! My plan was to put together a holiday planter for my front walkway. I keep seeing them at the grocery store for about $20 and I was sure that I could make one myself. 

Here is how mine turned out:

Here is the how-to:

1. Take a summer planter or urn and empty out the flowers and leave the potting soil in the pot.

2. Cut 5-6 stems of dogwood (bush with red branches) or another woody bush (you can spray paint the branches to red, white or gold or leave them natural). Cut about 8 small branches from two different types of evergreen tree (I used spruce and cedar). Find something with berries and cut about 8 small branches.

3. Stand the branches in the middle of the planter in the potting soil. Add the evergreen foliage in a circle around the edges of the planter. Fill in with berry branches.

4. Take two apples (or some lemons or some pine cones) and spear them with a straw or small stick or piece of wire and then push them into the soil as well. Add a ribbon somewhere if you like. 

Total time: 20 Minutes and all the materials came from overgrown bushes in my own yard.

The added bonus, I'll have something to cheer me when the ground is covered in snow and all my flowers are having their winter sleeps.

DIY Rating: 9
Pretty easy and possible to do 
with a small child trying to help!

PS. Ok, the apples that I put into the planter were eaten by morning and not a trace might want to stick with pine cones! I'm going to try to replace them with some ribbon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Advent Season

 Painting by Jan Provoost         Image Credit: Secret Harbour

One of the very last holiday seasons to remain outside the purview of commercialization is the Advent Season. It tends to get buried in what I like to call the "Commercial Christmas Preparation Marketing Season," which typically starts on November 1st. The advent season, in fact, is the time of year that some Christians celebrate as a time of waiting and preparation for Christmas. Whereas the actual Christmas Season runs from Christmas Eve to the Epiphany, early in January. You are probably familiar with the famous chocolate advent calendars. 

The very word, "Advent," translates to "a coming" or "an arrival". We celebrate the Advent of the Emmanuel, which translates to, "the coming of God among us."

This year, Advent begins today, Sunday, November 28th. To me, the painting above symbolizes the meaning of Advent. In the image, the Virgin and Child are shown with St. Jerome, St. John the Baptist, and a Carthusian Monk. To me, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ. St. John the Baptist's life was spent proclaiming the Nativity of Christ to come and St. Jerome and the Carthusian monk represent the praying, meditation and fasting that go along with preparing for the coming of Christmas during the Advent Season.

With all that is happening in the hustle and bustle of The Do-tique, we will be striving to take some time each day to slow down and enjoy our family and to reflect on what Christmas means for us. I hope you will consider joining us.

Photo Credit: Here

DIY Rating: 10
Taking some quiet time in the middle of the mayhem 
of the Holiday Season is always a good idea!

PS. Yes, there is an associated craft to go with the season...Check out Mom's Party Cafe for instructions!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Reader Question: Coat Hooks

"This reminds me of a project I have been stuck on: installing new coat hooks at the back entrance. It is possible to buy a board with coat hooks to attach to the wall, but to buy enough would cost about $300! Instead, I would like to buy a couple of pieces of wood (about 48" x 5" x 1"), screw in some hooks, and then attach the wood to the wall. But I have no saw, sander, etc. I had assumed that the lumber yard would not have appropriate wood for me. Do you think I am wrong? (Do you think they would paint the wood for me too?)" Posted by Cburrell

Dear Gentlereader,

Oh my, $300 and all that work to hang some coats? That's almost enough to employ an elf to do it for you! I am not sure whether I understand your project completely, but I think I get the idea of what you are trying to do and I am pleased to let you know that there are products on the market that have taken most of the work out of this for you.

Did you know that you can buy "boards" with the hooks mounted on them and then just mount the boards onto the wall? If you need a wider width, just purchase a few of them and hang them in succession.

Here are two carried by IKEA, both for well under $20/each. Similar items can be found at places like the Home Depot.
Leksvik Coat Hooks $16.99 at IKEA

Tjusig hooks $12.99 at IKEA

What you will need for this project are the following basic tools:

  1. Drill with bits and a screwdriver
  2. Stud finder
  3. Small level
  4. Screws and drywall plugs
  5. Hammer and measuring tape
Since typically these racks don't come with hardware, you might want to take the whole thing to the store and have someone there help you pick out the right screws and advise you as to whether you need drywall plugs. Another tip is to ask that person which drill bit to use for that hardware and write it down. It will save trying out different bits and possibly drilling a hole that's too big (been there, done that!). 

It will also help to have the stud finder so that you can try to align some of your screws into the wall studs for extra sturdiness.

For those readers with more time on their hands than others, it's worth checking out thrift stores, online auctions, kijiji and the Habitat for Humanity Re-stores for second hand tools. For the rest of us mere mortals who have to pay full price at an ordinary store to save on time, the good news is that they are pretty useful for a variety of basic home projects.

To CBurrell, good luck in your mission!

DIY Rating: 7
It's pretty easy to install this type of coat hook system, 
but it involves some measuring and a level to get it to look good 
and a drill is a key power tool for this one!

Lumbering Along

Photo Credit: Life

Today's topic is about buying lumber. To be honest, I find the process a bit intimidating and usually leave this job to others. There is also a paucity of power tools around The Do-tique, so we don't often engage in projects requiring more than a couple of 2x4s or some trim. And is anyone else out there totally confused about why a 2x4 is still called a 2x4 when those aren't the modern dimensions for this piece of wood? 

Last weekend, we packed Baby up and headed out to the Home Depot to see if we could find some wood to build two shelves into the closet in our home office. (The shelves will hopefully create a place for a printer and additional file storage.) Yes, this meant tackling the lumber aisle! Hubby started out in the closet organization section and picked up two pre-fab shelves with a melamine coating that didn't quite fit our dimensions and cost $17.99 each (we would have needed 4). The advantage here was that everything was pre-finished, so just cut to size and install...

However, I insisted that we go forth into the lumber section to see if there were any options that might be a better fit with our dimensions.

Often, when I think of lumber, I assume that all I will be able to find is an enormous piece of wood that won't fit into our car, that will have to be cut to size, sanded, primed, painted and then installed. It seems like just too much work.

The truth is that someone must have figured this out and created lumber that comes pre-finished for projects. You do not need to buy raw lumber and do all the work! There were a number of sizes and colors available and even the gigantic pieces cost less than a single shelf from the closet organization section.

In the end, we came home with two pre-cut, pre-finished shelves from an off-cut bin in the lumber section for significantly less than the closet organizer shelves would have cost.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Always come with your exact measurements handy - we spent 15 minutes in disagreement over whether the closet was 31 or 32 inches wide (settled for 31 1/2!)
  2. Since most of the "storage kits" have to be assembled by you anyway, consider whether you are handy enough to put your own simple shelving together out of the pre-finished wood in the lumber aisle
  3. Home Depot offers a cutting service, so if you know your measurements, the store can pre-cut the wood for your project. The first three cuts are free and in our case, we only needed two cuts
  4. Check the off-cut section for smaller projects - since we were only installing two shelves, we were able to find an off-cut of the wood we were looking for at a deep discount (material cost ended up being under $10 with hardware)

Now, all that is left is carefully nagging Hubby to help me install them over the weekend...

DIY Rating: 6 
Anything involving building from the lumber aisle is for the handy at heart, 
BUT if you do need something very simple, check the off-cut section, 
you might be able to find just what you need in a pre-finished, pre-cut material.

PS. I did honestly try to make a nifty Google SketchUp drawing of my closet plan for the blog, but now I don't know how to get that image onto Blogger!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Public Service Announcment

Photo Credit: Newark News Radio Club

This is a public service announcement to all readers to inform you that Knitting Addiction Disorder, otherwise known as KAD has been detected at The Do-tique. This not uncommon affliction is not deadly, but can cause midnight finger twitching should the affected person run out of yarn and be left without a knitting project for 48 hours or longer. It has caused the author of this very blog to visit Wool Tyme, a store well-known to Kingston authorities, to purchase further wool and receive needle training. Her symptoms include compulsive knitting and an escalating obsession that began with garter stitch and has now progressed to a rib stitch. Individuals affected with KAD can be heard muttering, "knit the knit and purl the purl," in living rooms across the nation. I repeat, KAD is not deadly, but citizens are cautioned to avoid yarn aisles at craft stores and elderly ladies on the internet offering knitting advice via video.

Infected individuals can often experience an over-growth of warming fluff cells such as scarves, socks and gloves eventually progressing to sweaters, a signal of chronic illness.

Offers materials, lessons, workshops and a knitting community.
The store clerk was kind enough to show 
me how to get started on a rib-stitch.