Blog Changes

We’ve been hard at work behind the scenes this past week to move Our Home Notebook over from to a self hosted WordPress site. We have a new site design and hope to make the blog easier to use and browse in the weeks to come!

Blog Design October 2013

What’s the Same?

Our domain name is still So if you have us bookmarked or search us, you’ll still be able to find us.

What’s Changed?

With the hosting switch we weren’t able to move along our followers, so if you currently follow us, please re-subscribe if you want to continue receiving new posts. You can subscribe on the blog, by email here or by RSS here.

We are really excited about what’s to come. Thanks so much for reading and following along!

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box

Our table works hard for us. We eat all our meals together here, Emma does her school work here and Brendan colours. We craft and we sew and we create here.

When I started gathering things for our fall table, I knew I didn’t want it to take up a lot of space so it would still work with our everyday activities. I also wanted to be able to remove it quickly in case we needed to clear the table for a big project.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box

I’ve had my eye on rustic wood boxes lately and decided that it would make the perfect base for our fall table. So I called Dan at work and asked him if he could bring a pallet home for me, the more worn the better (he’s always seeing pallets by the side of the road on his way home from work). Sweet guy that he is, he brought one home for me that night.

After assessing what boards we thought would work well for building we started pulling it apart. We decided the four main supports would be great for the sides of the box (the outside two even had a stamp on the sides) and some of the thinner pallet boards we thought would work well for the bottom of the box.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box - Cutting the boards

The hardest part of this project was trying to get the pallet apart without breaking all the boards in the process. After working with the crowbar and hammer for a while with very slow progress and lots of broken boards, Dan decided to take the circular saw to the rest of the boards on the back, cutting them between the cross boards and pulling out the nails and any remaining wood with the hammer.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box - Taking apart the pallet

That sped things up considerably and we were left with just the front boards to remove. We wanted to save a few of them for the bottom of the box, so we didn’t want to cut them any shorter, but now that the back pieces were off we were able to clamp the pallet to the work bench and use the sledge hammer to remove the rest of the boards. A few of them broke in the process but they came off pretty fast and we were able to save enough of them for the bottom of the box.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box - Taking off the boards

Using the pallet wood definitely made the project take a little longer at the beginning to get it apart (I think we spent about half an hour on it before we were able to start building) but if you can get some beautiful weathered wood from it and factor in the time you save from not having to stain or paint it, it’s not so bad.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box - Cutting the pieces

After we had all our wood ready we laid it out on the work bench to figure out what size we wanted to make it. We decided to keep the box as long as the boards themselves (which was 30 inches), so that we wouldn’t have any new cuts on the ends of the box that would show. Then we put a few thinner pallet boards in between them and decided that we wanted the box about 10 inches wide. So Dan cut two end boards 8 inches wide from one of the extra middle boards. He also cut two corner pieces from the same board to go inside the bottom of the box at the ends to give us something to attach the bottom boards to.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box - Screwing the box together

After we had cut all the wood and made sure it would fit together I put some fine grit sand paper in my sanding block and lightly sanded each side of the wood to take any rough edges and splinters off. Then Dan used our Kreg jig to drill two pocked holes in each corner of the end boards and screwed them together to make the sides of our box.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box - Putting the box together

To finish it off we nailed the small corner pieces of wood to the side boards, 1/2 inch up from the bottom of the box so the bottom boards could still fit underneath it. Then we turned the box over and screwed each of the bottom boards to the corner wood pieces to attach them.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box - Screwing the bottom boards in

After it was finished I filled it with white pumpkins, squash, pine cones and a few smaller gourds for our fall table. So easy and pretty.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box - Fall centerpiece

I love the weathered wood against our table and the rough waviness of the pallet boards. The stamped ends are such a beautiful little detail.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box - Stamp on pallet board

I’m thinking it will lend itself well to the change of seasons and could some in handy for parties and get togethers as a serving tray for plates, napkins and silverware or to corral a drink station.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box - Close up

We’ve had it set up on our table for a few days now and so far it has proved to be both pretty and practical for us. There’s still lots of room on each side of the table for place settings or colouring books. But now we get to look at this while we’re there.

Building A Rustic Wood Centerpiece Box - Decorated fall table

Linked to: Centsational Girl, The Inspired Room.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial

Fall is here now with its cool, crisp air and beautiful colours. I’ve been puttering around the house, bring out our extra blankets and enjoying some yummy spice teas. I love cozying up our home for the cooler months. I was looking through my fabric stash last week for some fallish fabrics when I came across this piece of light brown wool.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Wool Fabric

It was a little scratchy for everyday use, but it had great shape and texture so I thought it would be perfect for a fall fabric wreath. The kids were already part way through their nap time so I wanted a simple, pretty way to put it together that wouldn’t involve a whole lot of time intensive cutting and pinning or gluing. So if you’re looking for a quick, cute project, this is for you.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Supplies


  • Fabric (I used 2/3 of a yard of scrap wool from my fabric stash)
  • Wreath form (mine was 12″)
  • Fabric scissors
  • Glue gun and a couple glue sticks

Step 1. Cut a thin strip of fabric about 2 inches wide.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Step 1 Cut Fabric Strips

Glue one end of the fabric strip to the wreath form and start wrapping the wreath with the fabric.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Step 1 Wrapping Wreath Form

When you get to the end, secure the strip with a dab of hot glue. Now you won’t have to worry about any green peeking through between the fabric after your wreath is finished.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Step 1 Wrapped Wreath Form

Step 2. Cut a second wider strip of fabric (mine was 10″ wide).

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Step 2 Cut Large Fabric Strips

Fold the fabric strip a couple times over and glue the end of it to the wreath form.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Step 2 Fold Fabric

Open the folds of the fabric and start wrapping it loosely around the form, arranging the folds as you go.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Step 2 Wrap Fabric Keeping The Folds

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Step 2 Wrapping Large Fabric Strip

If you run out of fabric before the wreath is covered simply glue the end of the first strip to the back of the wreath and glue a new fabric strip on top and keep wrapping.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Step 2 Adding the Second Large  Fabric Strip

When the wreath is covered, secure the end of the fabric strip to the back of the wreath with hot glue.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Step 2 Finished Wrapping 1

Step 3. Cut a thin strip of fabric and fold it in half for a hanger. Glue it to the back of the wreath with a bit of hot glue.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Step 3 Fabric Hanger

Fluff the folds a little to make sure they aren’t crushed.

Simple Fabric Wrapped Wreath Tutorial - Step 3 Finished Wrapping 2

Then go find the perfect spot for it and enjoy.

Linked to: The Inspired Room, The Lettered Cottage.

Five Years Together

Wedding Photo - Spinning

September 6th marked our fifth wedding anniversary. Part of me can hardly believe we’ve had five years together already and the other part of me finds it strange to think back to a time when we didn’t spend our days together. All I know is that I feel so blessed to be married to this guy.

This year we decided to go for a weekend trip to Niagara Falls to celebrate and we loved it. It was so nice to have an opportunity to refresh, share and enjoy some special moments together.

5th Anniversary Trip - The Falls

I love five years and the knowing that comes along with it. To really know what inspires him and what he’s excited about. To tell him my thoughts and struggles and know he won’t think less of me for them. To be able to know when something’s bothering him and how to get him smiling again. To see him become a daddy to our two sweet children and know how willing he is to be right in there, taking care of them. To know what it is to go through hard times together and come out stronger on the other side. I love the steadiness that comes from always being there for each other.

5th Anniversary Trip - Botanical Gardens

Lately I’ve been thinking about how much we learn and grow in life as we get older, see new things and experience them in a different way. I’m so glad I get to do that with you, Dan. Thanks for five amazing years.

Storing Spices

Storing Spices in Mason Jars with Chalk Labels 4

When we moved into our house last fall, I decided to change up our spice storage. We had previously been using magnetic canisters on the side of the fridge but now that I had actual cabinet space to store our spices in, I wanted something with a little more capacity and a better seal, so we wouldn’t keep accidentally spilling our spices on the counter.

Kitchen Before 2

So I went to Pinterest for ideas and found this. Glass jars with chalkboard painted lids for labeling. I already loved using mason jars to store my dry food in, so I was pretty sure they’d be perfect for my spices too.

I gathered all my small mason jars and spray painted the lids with Krylon’s Chalkboard Spray Paint. I gave them four to five light coats letting them dry for 10-15 minutes in between each one. After allowing the paint to fully cure overnight I conditioned the chalkboard surface with regular white chalk and got a chalk marker for labeling the spices so it wouldn’t smudge like regular chalk as we used them.

Storing Spices in Mason Jars with Chalk Labels 2

I love that the mason jars are big enough that I don’t have to store any bulk spices for refilling smaller containers anymore, which makes my life easier. The wide mouth mason jars are easy to fill up and measure from too.

This was such a simple upgrade (I already owned most of the jars and the chalkboard spray paint was leftover from another project) but it works so much better for us. Cooking and baking take so much less time when you don’t have to spend it filling up empty spice containers or cleaning up spilled spices. And I’m all for more pretty organization in my life.

Storing Spices in Mason Jars with Chalk Labels 3

How about you?  How do you organize your spices? Any other ways you like to use chalkboard paint?

Choosing Fabric For A Shared Kids Room

I’ve been looking around at bedding for the kids on and off over the summer, trying to decide what we want to do. We are anticipating transitioning Brendan to a big bed soonish and moving them both to a bunk bed (which Emma is so excited for!). Since we started work in their room I’ve been thinking that a bunk bed would really fit well in there and open up their floor space even more for play.

Kids Room After - Landscape view

I’ve looked around at all sorts of colours and patterns and lately I keep going back to a homemade striped quilt (sort of like this or this). I love being able to pick and choose the fabrics and the imperfect handmade feel appeals to me.

The past two weeks I’ve been playing around with fabric and mix and matching patterns online, trying to decide what to put together for the kids room. Emma requested pink on her bedding so I found this beautiful Amy Butler print called Pressed Flowers in Carmine that she and I both loved so that became our starting off point.

Amy Butler Cameo Pressed Flowers In Carmine

I decided to try this handsome Moroccan Lattice print in Clementine from Michael Miller for Brendan’s main fabric. I’m hoping the pink and red combination will play off each other well.

Michael Miller Moroccan Lattice Clementine Fabric 1

Then I brought in some navy blues to balance out the warm colours, a few more patterns and some fun etsy pillows and this is where we are today.

Girl’s Bedding Mood Board

Girl's Bedding Mood Board

1. Whale pillow. 2.  Pink flowered fabric. 3. Navy striped fabric4. Black ticking fabric. 5. Polka dot pillow. 6. Purple and tangerine fabric.

Boy’s Bed Mood Board

Boy's Bedding Mood Board

1. Bike pillow. 2. Lattice print fabric. 3Navy striped fabric4. Black ticking fabric. 5. Stripe pillow.  6. Polka dot fabric.

So now I need to order some fabric swatches to feel and play around with before taking the leap. I’ve done quite a few different kinds of sewing projects before but never a full sized quilt so that part feels a little scary. Mostly because of the machine quilting, which I’ve only done a little of, so I’ve been waffling a bit. But I’d also love to be able to do it and I think the kids would love them so I probably just need to go for it. Because how much fun would these be on their beds?

I’m thinking of pairing them with matching neutral cotton blankets for extra warmth and a fun pillow or two. And maybe the black ticking for their curtains?

Black Woven Ticking 2

Not sure yet what to do for them. We’ll have to see where we end up. But I love having a good reason to play around with pretty fabric.

Have you ever ordered fabric online? What’s your favourite way to pull together fabrics for a room?

Building a Sandbox

Building a Sandbox - Emma in play zone

After seeing how much our kids loved playing in the sand at the beach this summer, we decided to take the plunge and build them a sandbox. At first I was worried that there would be sand everywhere because of it, but seeing how long they both played happily in it convinced me we should go for it anyway. We briefly considered making a rock box instead but went back to play sand because we thought the kids would enjoy being able to build with it as well as dig.

We looked at a few sandbox designs for inspiration (from here and here) and Dan combined our favourite elements and drew up a design of what we wanted.

Building a Sandbox - Design

We ended up with a simple box made of 2″ x 8″ with a barn doorish lid made of wood slats to keep the leaves and animals out and strong enough to stand up to the weather and the kids walking on it (because we knew that was the first thing Brendan was going to want to do.)

Building a Sandbox - Design with lid open

After playing around with the wood to get an idea of size we decided to make the sandbox 5′ x 5′. Big enough for both of them to have a good amount of room to play, without it being too big for our space.

Building a Sandbox - Deciding the size

Dan cut the 2″ x 8″ with a mitered edge at each corner and added 4″ x 4″ post in the corners for support. He screwed heavy duty lag bolts through the 2″ x 8″ into the posts to attached the corners together.

Building a Sandbox - Cutting the boards

Then we were ready to put together the lid. Dan picked up some cedar 2″ x 4″s for the cross pieces and 5′ cedar fence boards for the slats. He cut the 2″ x 4″ top and bottom pieces and mitered the top edges so the outside edge wouldn’t get in the way of the sandbox lid opening fully.

Building a Sandbox - Screwing the lid together

Then we attached the deck boards to the top and bottom pieces, spacing and screwing them in from the back. Dan ripped down two of the deck boards to fit the smaller space left in the middle of both of the doors. The sandbox was really starting to come together!

Building a Sandbox - Attached lid

We measured where we wanted the hinges and chiseled out a little pocket for them in the top of the 2″ x 8″ before screwing them in place, so the lid would sit flush on top of the box when closed.

Building a Sandbox - Putting on the hinges

Then Dan measured and attached the diagonal pieces between the top and bottom 2″ x 4″s to add more support and create more of a barn door look.

Building a Sandbox - Finished building

All that was left to do was finish it off with some weather protecting stain and attach the handles. So we brought a few test pots home and tried them out on a few different wood scraps and settled on a brown-gray semi-transparent stain from Behr called Boot Hill Grey (we’d love to also stain the play set the same colour down the road). I brushed the stain on one evening after supper and got it finished just before dark.

Building a Sandbox - Stain colour

A couple days later, Dan and the kids picked up a load of play sand from our local Home Hardware and filled up the sandbox with the wheel barrow.

Building a Sandbox - Sandbox beside playset

The kids love it just as much as we hoped! I still can’t get over how long they will play together in there.

Building a Sandbox - Kids building in the sand

The sand also seems to keep enough moisture in it that it’s great for building. It makes bucket sandcastles beautifully. And the lid holds up well to our little climber.

Building a Sandbox - Brendan walking on the lid

So far my worry about having sand in the house all the time has been kept at bay by keeping a small hand broom by the back door of the garage and brushing them off before they come in.

Building a Sandbox - Kids playing in the sand

We fit this project in between family vacations and a few other home projects but the actual time to put this together wasn’t all that much. We spent one evening building the box, another evening putting together the lid and a third evening to stain it before we were ready for sand. So its definitely a doable project and so much fun for the kids. I love that it’s one of those things that can grow with them.

Building a Sandbox - The play zone

Hydrangeas in Bloom

My hydrangea bushes have been in full bloom for a few weeks now and I’m loving them so much. They are such pretty flowers.

Front Garden with hydrangeas

With my first hydrangea bush at our old rental, I got about four or five blooms a year, so I’m so impressed with this first year of blooms on these after just planting them this spring. I can’t wait to see them all filled out over the next few years.

Hydreangeas in bloom1

Hydrangeas in bloom2

So many big white blooms together. And I love that they last so long. They are the perfect front door flower.

Hydrangeas in front garden

I love the freshness of the white against our orange brick. They look so sharp. Our lilies are getting ready to bloom soon too so it should be fun to see a little colour added to the mix.

Front Garden in bloom

I’m so glad we planted the hydrangeas this spring. They make me smile every time I see them.

Read about planting the front garden here.

Organizing Toys To Encourage Play

With two cute growing kiddos, our toys collection just seems to keep growing along with them. Every six months or so, I like to do a purge of the extra ones and then figure out a system to keep their favourite ones in order and easy to find. I’m finding that as our family grows and changes, so do our needs.

Organizing Toys

Currently, we keep most of the toys in the living room and the kids bedroom which works out well. But the past couple of months as Brendan is nearing two years old, I’ve noticed that the baskets of miscellaneous toys in the living room don’t work to keep his attention as they used to. When he was younger he used to love sitting in front of a basket of toys and digging through it to find something new. But recently they were just getting dumped and then passed over for something else.

Organizing Toys - Before

Now that Brendan’s old enough that he and Emma play together for more extended periods of time, they’re both engaged much longer in an activity if it’s something they can do and use their imaginations with (like building a castle or racing cars around). Certain toys I’ve always kept separate because it made sense, like the wooden blocks and mega blocks, but now I decided to take the two miscellaneous baskets full of toys and do the same.

Organizing Toys - Shelf close up

So one became for their toy animals and farm and the other for their cars and fire station. The others hold their wooden blocks, train set and play tools. While I was at it I tidied up and sorted through the rest of the shelves and gave away some things we weren’t using or loving anymore.

Organizing Toys - Kids playing

And you know what? It worked! The kids are so much more ready to go and play on their own now that they can really see and find what they have to play with. Instead of just a jumble of toys there are more actual activities together for them to use their imagination with to create something fun. It’s also so much easier for me to redirect them to something to do, when there’s a variety of ideas together for them to play with. We might need to change things up again in the future to suit them better but right now, at the ages of four and almost two, this suits them perfectly.

Organizing Toys - Kids building

Now I’m on the hunt to find the perfect dresser to makeover for their bedroom to corral all the play food and dishes beside their kitchen, and make the doll clothes and dress up more accessible.

What about you? How do you organize your kid’s toys? Do you find yourself having to change things up as they get older?

A New Back Door

When we moved into our house last fall, one of the things on our list to fix was the door on the back of the garage.

Installing a Exterior Door - Before

It was original to the house and was showing its wear. The door jam was especially bad as the wood had rotted out and was a bit of a tripping hazard. It wasn’t pretty.

Installing a Exterior Door - Before door frame

So we had been keeping our eye on the sales and when Home Depot had a shipment of doors come in a few weeks ago we finally got a pretty, functional replacement for it. We decided on a pre-hung steel core door, with a half window for light and retractable blinds inside the glass for privacy.

But first we had to get the old one out of there. Dan started by removing the door and then took the reciprocating saw to the edge of the frame and cut the nails between the door frame and the wall framing. Then he began prying off the old wood with the crowbar.

Installing a Exterior Door - Removing the old door frame1

Installing a Exterior Door - Removing the old door frame2

This part went pretty fast and we were left with the rough opening. It’s crazy looking having a hole in the side of your house, but now we had a clean slate to install the new door!

Installing a Exterior Door - Old door frame gone

To prep the opening for it, Dan cut and laid new, pressure treated wood on the step to go under the jam to give it a little more height. He drilled and screwed it into place so it wouldn’t shift during the installation.

Dan moved the new door into place from the inside and I held it steady from the outside while Dan made sure it was level with the opening.

Installing a Exterior Door - Fitting new door

Next we added wood shims between the new door fame and the rough opening to hold it in place. Dan put them through from the inside of the door and I put them through from the opposite side to get the best hold.

Installing a Exterior Door - Shims in new door frame

Dan screwed from the inside of the door frame through each of the shims to the wall to secure it in place.

Installing a Exterior Door - Screwing door frame

Now we had a fully functioning door again. It was still very rough around the edges but it opened and closed beautifully.

Installing a Exterior Door - Trying out new door

Next came the weatherproofing. Dan pulled out the tube of expanding foam and filled the gap around the door frame. (Here’s my husband’s tip for keeping half used cans of expanding foam from drying out. Put WD-40 on the length of a pipe cleaner and insert it in the nozzle. Ours was still good after nine months of storing it using the pipe cleaner trick).

Installing a Exterior Door - Filling gap with expanding foam

Now all we had to do was finish off the outside rough edge. Dan nailed brick moulding along the top and side edges to cover the rough gap between the brick and door frame.

Installing a Exterior Door - Installing brick moulding

He also cut and screwed in a piece of white metal flashing for the very top edge which worked out really well to cover up the awkward gap on top.

Installing a Exterior Door - Putting up metal flashing

He caulked around the edge to fill any gaps and added a square aluminium tube along the bottom edge of the door sill to add support and finish it off.

Installing a Exterior Door - Finishing off the door sill

We bought a new oil rubbed bronze door knob and deadbolt for the door and its so much better now.

Installing a Exterior Door - After1

And here it is with the blinds closed.

Installing a Exterior Door - After with blinds

We love the new door. We are no longer tripping over the old door sill and everything is definitely more air tight now. Not to mention pretty. It’s a nice surprise every time we come in from the backyard.

Installing a Exterior Door - After2

Anyone else ever installed a new door? It was all new to me so I found it interesting to see how it all went together as Dan installed it without a second thought. I’m a lucky girl.