Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Image credit: Sticky notes available at See Jane Work

There will be a brief hiatus at the Do-tique. Regularly scheduled programming will return in about a week.

What could possibly pull the fine folks at the Do-tique away from their basement reno and tomato canning plans?

A journey to a place where local wildlife is honored and paid tribute to by way of monument:

Photo credit: Joan Kyle

So think of us when you hear this Canadian crooner:

We will be back soon with tales of adventures and some good photos, so keep those spoons and spatulas and hammers and screwdrivers going for us while we're gone!

DIY Rating: 0 
Best to leave the driving to your favorite airline! :-)

New and Improved

"The Peanut Gallery", from the Howdy Doody Show circa late 40's/early 50's

I have heard from some of my dear readers that the comment function here at The Do-tique is somewhat byzantine and difficult to use. My apologies as I am still quite new at blogging! Things should be easier now and since I am one who is never short an opinion, I'd be delighted to hear yours should you feel the urge to share a comment here.

If you are wondering about the photo above, one of my mother's favourite lines to us kids when one of us was putting forward a nosy and unsolicited viewpoint was, "No one asked the peanut gallery!"

DIY Rating: Hopefully a 10?? Is it easier now?

Fiat Lux!

All Photos: Filia Artis

A special gold star for the first reader to provide a translation of today's title via the comment function!

I recently posted about the television series Canada's Worst Handyman and some of the projects that they attempt to teach the nominees to do in Handyman Boot Camp. One such project was installing a dimmer switch. Seeing as folks who looked pretty un-handy were trying this one out, I thought I would give it a go as well.

Remember this pretty little set up?

Yep, I'm talking about just a half broken dimmer and an old toggle switch wired into the wall with no switch plate. (Sorry, I had ripped them out before getting a proper "before" shot.) 

Here is the "after" picture, ahem, I mean "Glamour Shot"

What I installed were two basic dimmer switches from a big box home store along with a new face plate that hides the screws that hold it in place. I won't get into details about how it all works seeing as I'm not really qualified - All I did was follow the instructions that came with the dimmers and it seemed that the one existing dimmer had been wired correctly, so I just followed along with what had been done and replicated the wiring again to transition the toggle switch to a second dimmer switch.

Should I mention that you turn off the appropriate breaker before you start working?

The only tools needed were a voltage detector, screwdriver, needle-nose pliers and some electrical tape to keep it all neat inside.

Tip: Test for voltage on each outlet/switch box even if you think the power is off!
I was almost surprised by an outlet that was not part of the same breaker as the others!

It was just as easy to do the rest of the light switches in the basement and it makes things look nice and fresh to have new rocker switches and white plates throughout. We have even been working on changing the old yellowed out and painted over electrical outlets to fresh white ones. I would recommend reading the instructions in the packet and double checking with someone who does have some knowledge about wiring (which we did).

Though we installed regular outlets, I found out today that you can get tamper resistant outlets at the Home Depot. Seeing as Baby already loves all things electrical, I would have picked those ones if they had been in stock the first time I was there getting supplies. Here are some handy outlet installation instructions from the store.

DIY Rating: 8 
Get the right tools ready, read your instructions and you should be done (one) in about 30 minutes!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A weekend at the Louvre(d) - Closet Doors

Do you remember this pretty (ugly) little sneak peek? This is the closet door that had been installed into our basement and painted teal green. Well, almost everything was painted teal green. I will note that this is a nearly impossible colour to paint over.

Originally, the doors were a bi-fold, louvred door. However, the track system was never installed properly, so they were always a major pain to open and close. And did I mention how ugly the green was?

We considered pulling them out altogether and replacing them with something new and simple, but decided it might be worth the effort to try and fix them ourselves and then if the project didn't work out, we could always defer to Home Depot for new ones.

The plan was to re-configure the bi-fold doors so that each one was hung independently and could be opened as regular swing-out closet doors with hinges on the outer edges attached to the door frame.

Step 1 was to remove doors and hardware, sand, prime and paint. It took two coats of primer and two coats of paint to cover the green! I was also cursing the little slats which had so many nooks and crannies to paint.

Step 2 was my hunt at the local Re-Store for knobs and hardware. I ended up purchasing the hinges elsewhere, but did come home with some wooden knobs.

Before - My Re-Store Score

After - Simple but does the job!

Step 3 was to take my newly found knowledge of door hanging from Canada's Worst Handyman and use a hammer and chisel to set the hinges and finally hang the doors in the frame. 

I traced the hinges out on the doors and drilled in the guide holes before scoring the edges and then chiseling out the place to set in the hinge.

You can see here that my handywork on the door frame had good moments and not so good moments.

A bit messy on the door frame

A second try and there is improvement

Here is the final product.

I would say that it looks so much better than before and the total cost was closer to $15 whereas buying new would have cost several times more than that. However, I learned that painting louvred doors by hand is a major chore and really, the correct way to do them is to use a paint sprayer rather than a brush. Also, if they are a dark colour, like mine were, and you want them black, go nuts. If you want them to be white, like I did, be prepared for a lot more work.

Chiseling out the spots for the hinges was also something that I might re-consider. My handywork was not bad, but not professional either. It did not matter as much on a basement closet that was already a mess to begin with, but it was not something I would have done for the first time in my main rooms. Better would have been to have someone show me for the first time and then for me to do a few practice rounds on scrap wood. I could see when I was doing it why the bad handymen on TV were having such a hard time with this task.

DIY Rating: 6

Decent results for excellent cost, 
but very time consuming and more practice would have helped.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Books and Miscellanea at the Do-tique

Eternal public and university library addicts, we are always reading and listening to and watching new things here at The Do-tique. There will be occasional posts on some of the things we're enjoying here in case you want to check them out yourself. Posts will be filed on the "Books and Miscellanea" page for future reference. 

Feel free to send your suggestions!

Filia Artis, Handyman Hubby and Baby

Bob Dylan
Many of our friends are big Dylan fans, but we are somewhat inexperienced here at the Do-tique in the Dylanmania. A recording came home from the library recently 

Tell Tale Signs: the Bootleg Series Vol. 8

Everyone, especially Baby, loved the album. Especially the bluegrass revival aspect and the somewhat "Johnny Cash meets Leonard Cohen and make a good love child" sound. It was a good record for dancing in the living room to and for hopping in the Jolly Jumper.

Filia Artis is busy reading 

This is a story about Jamaican immigrants during post-war England. It is told from the perspective of three characters. The first is Queenie, an Englishwoman who houses boarders in her London home and has upset her neighbors by taking in colored guests. Then, there are two Jamaicans, Hortense and Gilbert. Hortense grew up in Jamaica and married Gilbert after knowing him a very short time in order to  be able to emigrate to England. Gilbert's experiences take the reader through his time as a volunteer for the RAF during the war and his return to England to live in Queenie's home, a woman he became acquainted with during the war.

Handyman Hubby has an album of classical music also from the library on re-play this weekend.

He is still not sure how to put into words why he likes it so much, but it is enjoyable music for reading along to or more concentrated listening. Prokofiev is a 20th century Russian composer (d. 1953). According to the liner notes:

"At his first public appearance as a composer-pianist in that city (St. Petersburg) in 1908 (age 17) he performed some of his short piano pieces - including the tempestuous Suggestion diabolique - and was immediately regarded as ultra-modern and something of an 'enfant terrible'."

Baby is currently a big fan of Sleepy Time and The Book of Daniel. Both are edible and cosy. One has hungry lions. I would put a photo up, but she has them both cuddled into bed with her at the moment.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Going Dutch - Baked Beans

If you are like me, so far, baked beans have only ever arrived on my plate via a tin can. I have never really been a big fan and we only eat them about once a year around here. However, this past spring we went touring into Prince Edward County, a local wine and food region, for the annual Maple in the County event. It was in a farm yard on a warm March afternoon that I had some great baked beans and ham.

Feeling a bit bored in the grocery store last week, I remembered tasting that very dish we tried in the County and picked up a bag of navy beans and a ham hock from the butcher. There seem to be a great variety of recipes online and I am sure that some of my readers have their own traditional family recipe for this, but if you are a newbie to the dish, here my version of the recipe. It is adapted from the Williams-Sonoma "Comfort Food" cookbook. For once, a fairly easy recipe from these folks!

You will need either a dutch oven or a crock pot or a pot that can go in the oven (no plastic handles) or just cook it all on the stove top instead of in the oven. (hint, if you are still wondering what that huge, heavy pot that says "Le Creuset" on it that showed up at your wedding is for, this is your chance!) I received a Calphalon Unison dutch oven for Christmas last year and it has been great.

Do leave yourself a whole day to make this stuff or if you have a crock pot, cook it overnight. My oven has a slow cook and cook timer feature, so I just programmed everything, threw in the dutch oven and came back every two hours.

DIY Rating: 10 Super minimal effort and skill needed. 

With few dishes to wash and an awesome aroma, your kitchen will smell like you are a pro chef!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Easy Does It

We have been on a bit of a family exercise routine these past few days and busy with working on the basement and going to a local BBQ last night.

So here is an easy Friday morning post to inspire you for the weekend. Lauren at
Pure Style Home has been featuring an easy "to do list" type of project weekly and challenging her readers to follow along. It's called "Pure Projects". This week's challenge was to finally hang something in your home that you have been meaning to put up. You can see how she hung the awesome German educational chart below in her son's room here.

Photo Credit: Lauren Liess, Pure Style Home

On Sunday, I did follow through with Lauren's Pure Project #12 which was to make a small flower arrangement from your garden for the kitchen table. It was lovely and we enjoyed it all week. 

Lauren also has some great room makeovers on her site, so check her blog out! My thanks to Lauren (in case she ever reads this).

DIY Rating: 10

Find the smallest project on your list and finish it by Sunday! 

PS. My apologies if the text formatting looks weird today, I can not seem to fix it on Blogger!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

TV Appendix

Just a note to let my fair readers know that when I say "learned from TV" I do not wish to mis-lead anyone into thinking that I actually watched a real life television.

Seeing as this is my current television...

No, it's not even plugged in. But, yes it DOES have a remote control!

What I really mean is that I watch this, much more chic device

The movers asked me last year whether they should just install the "Box Television" on the curb in front of the house or whether I actually wanted them to bring it into the new house.

Does anyone have any clever ideas of how I could use my TV in a cool way (aside from recycling it)? I have been holding onto it because it does get two channels and plays DVDs just fine and more importantly, I think it could be an awesome vintage piece somehow.

What I learned from TV

                                                                                               Photo: Infiltration

Earlier this summer, I had a chance to watch the two most recent seasons of Canada's Worst Handyman online.

There was a lot more to learn from that show than from a lot of the home stuff I have watched in the past. 

The show features a lot of unusual and even kind of ugly projects, but the great thing is that they take the participants through improving their basic handyman skills, like drilling, sawing, detail work, etc. At the start of each project, the "experts" give a workshop and a demo on how to complete the project. Then, the bad handymen try to produce the same results themselves. You can learn a lot about how NOT to do things by watching and I have to admit, I would probably make a lot of the same errors as the nominees did if I were in their shoes. 

Here are the handymen tackling the dimmer switch - fast forward to minute 1:55 to start correct section.

If only there were a handyman boot-camp that I could go to for a few weeks!

I am currently working on two of the tasks that I saw demonstrated on the show - installing a dimmer switch and hanging hinged doors. 

Here are two very ugly sneak peeks of the "before"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Goldilocks and the Three Mitre Saws

Photo Credit: A Low Impact Woodland Home

Once upon a time, there was a couple who acquired a home with a basement. Sadly, they were unsure of how big of a saw they would need to install new baseboard trim. The husband went into the workshop and found a saw and a mitre box. Sadly, it was too small to do the job.

So the husband went to a great big store and bought a bigger mitre box with a bigger and better saw. Unfortunately, it was too small to do the job too.

Then, the wife went to an even bigger store and rented an even bigger mitre saw and brought it home and it was just right!

If you are like us and not quite ready to invest in the big ticket handyman tools like a compound mitre saw, you can rent one from Home Depot or a local tool rental place. (Pricing was pretty similar all around.) We rented ours on a four hour rental at 6pm and returned it at 9am the next morning and were able to do cuts for about 96 linear ft of trim. This was hubby's first time using this type of saw and doing this type of job. 

The base cost for four hours was $29 or $41 for a full twenty four hours. (Plus tax and insurance)

If you only have a small job to do, like we did, I would recommend renting. The cost for purchasing a basic saw is around $200 and the one we rented is worth closer to $600. You could also try being really, really good and hope for one from Santa... 

DIY Rating: 
10 for ease of renting a saw
6 for actual use of power saw by novice handyman
0 for trying to DIY a basement with a hand tool

More before and after shots to come as well as a run-down of the entire project. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sunday Tart

Do you have one of these in your kitchen?

Quiches and egg tarts are one of those dishes that lie upon a gender divide...
I find nothing more tempting at the bakery than a pretty tart filled with egg, salmon, asparagus, cheese, tomatoes - you name it! The fluted pastry is just so appealing to me.

However, the idea of quiche is somewhat repulsive to my husband. Seeing as it is used as a prime punishment for these gentlemen in The Doghouse, I figure he might not be the only one.

I was pleased the other week to find a recipe for a tart that I was able to re-jig and that my husband actually liked. And, liked enough to request a second batch this weekend.

In terms of the do-ability of this type of recipe, you do need to have some basic pastry experience, but of all the tart and pie shells I've made over the years, this was by far the easiest. We had guests on Sunday, so I made the tart up the night before and just re-heated it in the oven. The time in is about 2 hours start to finish and the ingredients are pretty flexible and pretty affordable. If you're hoping to impress without a mess, use a frozen Tenderflake pie shell from the grocery store, keep the measurements for the fillings the same and use a no-cook combo of fillings like ham and cheese. 

If you were to buy something like this at a bakery in my area, the cost would be around $17.

Sadly, or perhaps happily (?), here is all that is left of mine to photograph!

You can find the recipe on my recipe page here, adapted from Chatelaine.

DIY Rating: 
7 for the "adapted Chatelaine recipe" version
9 for the "use a frozen pie shell" version

Overall, the impress your guests factor is high and the effort is only moderate if you do it yourself, but if you don't like baking, go for "buy and lie", just remember to hide the bakery box!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

All Manner of Thing

Allegory of Economy, sculpted by José Alcoverro.  Madrid
While this blog strives to explore all manner of thing related to what one might call "economia", my good friend, Craig, is in charge of an excellent blog entitled, "All Manner of Thing". For all things intelligent, artistic, musical and entertaining, be sure to visit him here.
My thanks for the honorable mention tonight on his page.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Score at the Re-Store

I knew we had picked the right neighborhood to move to last year when I saw the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store located right around the corner from our house. The concept is that the store sells gently used and new hardware and household items to generate funds for their building projects. The experience is sort of like going into your grandfather's shed in hopes that you might score the perfect item for your project at a fraction of the price. The great thing is that there is a regular retail store not far away, so I often stop in at the Re-Store and if I can't find what I'm looking for, I just walk a few more minutes to find what I need.

Last fall, my father-in-law built me a counter for folding and crafts in my laundry room out of a kitchen counter we bought there for $5. We were also able to get the hardware for the project and a light fixture for the room, also $5. He even picked up a few hand-tools we needed to do the job. We did have to buy wood to make the supports at a regular store. My plan is to surround the bottom of the counter with pretty fabric and to store laundry baskets and extra linens there. Photos to come.

Today, my mission was to find hinges and knobs for a set of closet doors we want to hang in the basement. The hinges there were all about $1 each and in good shape, but I was not able to find a set of 4 that matched in the size I needed (my plan was to spray paint them all, so metal finish was not an issue). Basic ones ended up costing about double elsewhere. I did, however, find knobs for the door that I can paint and that were in the original packaging for $1 (saved about enough for my next Starbucks latte)!

Overall, I would definitely suggest checking this place out, especially if you are not in a rush, only need one piece or a small amount of a product and have time to browse through the store. It also takes some imagination to figure out how something might work if it were painted or cleaned or used in a different way. For example, I see a lot of projects that use doors for headboards - what a great place to find an old door to re-purpose!

323 Bath Road, Kingston, Ontario
Habitat for Humanity

DIY Rating: 7

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recipe Roll-Call

Julia Child 1970                                  Image: Paul Child

Do you ever find yourself turning to your laptop for recipes and ideas more than to your cookbooks? I have oodles of recipes that I have printed off of the web over the years tucked in a basket in my pantry and more often than not, I simply pull up a recipe online and bring the laptop into the kitchen. My poor cookbooks are rarely opened anymore.

The great benefit to online recipes is that you can search by ingredient and because there are so many variations, you will almost always be able to find a version that includes what you have on hand. The other great tool are the sites that let you know what ingredients can be substituted and with what.

The downside of using google is that many of the recipes are untested and can be posted by anyone. You need some sense of how the recipe should work and what results you want ahead of time so that you can pick out the right one.

Here are a few of my go-to resources:

DIY Rating: 5

The great advantage to the Williams-Sonoma site is that they provide entire menus for holidays and special occasions, so it is a great starting place if you need ideas for a special meal. You can search by ingredient or course. It is also a great way to figure out what all those weird do-hickeys you got as wedding presents do. The main point of the site is to provide recipes that use the specialty tools and ingredients that are sold through the stores. That being said, I have tried out a number of recipes and most of the time, they can be made without the exact equipment or ingredients. The results have always been amazing but these recipes are not for the faint of heart as they are usually complicated and/or time consuming.

DIY Rating: 5

Martha is not kidding when she comments that she expects perfection. Hundreds of recipes and menus and loads of beautiful photographs but DIY'er beware! I have so far been caught by a recipe for gingerbread cookies that took over five hours for one batch and an attempt at hazelnut gelato that became a three day project. Martha has a team of people to perfect and style her recipes. They are usually delicious and beautiful but some are not for the novice.

DIY Rating: 8

This is my go to site for all things "cookie". I have made almost all of the Christmas cookie recipes and they are champions. The recipes are straightforward and uncomplicated, the pictures are pretty and the results tend to be quite good and only require a moderate level of baking know-how.

DIY Rating: 9

An excellent site for beginning chefs. You do not need to subscribe to the magazine to be able to access the recipes online, though it is usually through the magazine that I first read about the recipes. They have a good ingredient search function so you can plan dinner around what is in the house. The recipes tend to be simplified versions of otherwise more complicated dishes. This is where my husband looks when he has to make dinner. The "Meals in Minutes" recipes have been tried in our test kitchen many times and live up to their promise of delicious, nutritious and quick.

Cooking and baking definitely count as something worth doing yourself and I look forward to sharing some of the recipes that we make here in the future.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In the Beginning...

"Why hire someone when you can do it yourself?"
This is the mantra of our society. Mostly gone are the days of live-in domestic helpers and handymen. Today, business men and women sport hammers and paint brushes on the weekend. Craft and home improvement stores, countless magazine articles, blogs and home and garden shows encourage their audiences to take the plunge and do it themselves. This blog seeks to examine this trend and to ask the question, "is it worth it?".

There are many times where I have wished I had forgone the DIY mentality and just hired someone and many times that I have been pleased with the ease and results of having done the job myself.

The plan for this blog is to feature projects from recipes to home improvements to starting your own business and to discuss how they were done. Every project is a balancing act between personal enjoyment and accomplishment, desired results, budget and the time and effort required to complete the project. Sometimes it's worth doing it yourself, sometimes it's not. I'll be connecting you to tips and information and resources to help you decide whether DIY is for you!

Here's a toast to getting it done!