Monthly Archives: July 2013

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.

Outdoor Chairs

As we’ve been turning our focus to our outdoor spaces with the summer weather, we toyed with looking into some furniture for the backyard. We already had a couple lounge chairs from family which were perfect for reading and watching the kids. We even had a table, also from family, but no dining chairs yet to put around it. So this spring we improvised and ate dinner outside with our plates on our laps. It worked, but was a little messy with the kiddos, so we didn’t do it as often as I would have liked.

Brendan in Chair

I looked around at a few places for outdoor dining chairs and saw a few I liked, but seeing as we don’t have a deck yet to put them on, it wasn’t really high on our list. Then Dan happened to see some on sale at Home Depot as he was picking up some supplies for a project and gave me a call. We decided to go for them, as they were just the style we were looking for and were only $18.00 a piece. So he brought four of them home for around the table.

Outdoor Table and Chairs

We pulled the table out of the garage where we had been storing it and set them up in our backyard. We had an impromptu barbecue with family the other weekend and it was so nice to have the extra seating. They are so comfy and I love that I can leave them outside without having to worry about them getting wet. We get so much use out of them because they are always there and ready. Supper in the backyard is happening so much more now that we have an easy place to do it.

Brendan Eating Outside

The downside is that we have a lot more furniture to move when we mow the grass, but at least it won’t be forever as it can all transfer to the deck once its built. And the fact that we are able to enjoy our backyard that much more now makes it worth it to us.

BBQ and Outdoor Eating Area

I’d love to spray paint the table to freshen it up and match the chairs eventually, but I’m thinking I may wait until we have the deck built before I tackle that. Right now I love that we can enjoy our backyard to its fullest, even without a deck.

What about you? Anyone else as excited as I am about dinner outside?

Eating Outside

A Playset For The Kids

I love spending a good portion of our summer days outside. Now that we have this, even more so.

Building a Playset

Last fall, my brother-in-law had a neighbour who was passing on their old playset so he picked it up and brought it up for us, soon after we moved. With unpacking and getting settled in we didn’t have a chance to assemble it before the snow came. So this spring, the kids were so excited to get their playset put together and I was so excited to turn the pile of wood by our backdoor into something useful and fun.

We decided to place it in the back corner of our lot as it can be seen from anywhere in the back yard there, as well as from our big side yard and back french doors where we hope to have a deck someday. It was a bit of a puzzle at first as Dan spread it all out and figured out what went where and what wood we might still need. He ended up buying four pressure treated 4 x 4 posts for the supports and then we were ready to start assembling.

Building a Playset - Deck and railing

We worked on it off and on in the evenings, first digging the holes for the posts and getting them in the ground. The platform was all in one piece so we just had to attach it to the posts using spare wood as cross pieces and some heavy duty lag bolts to anchor them. Next we added the railing, which was already in three sections so we played around with them a bit and cut them to size so we could attach them between the posts.

Building a Playset - Adding the slide and ladder

Then we were ready to put the ladder and slide on the front. I freshened up the slide by spray painting it with Krylon’s Fusion for Plastic in a bright yellow. It took three bottles to do two good coats and although it didn’t have perfect coverage, it did really help brighten it up so it doesn’t look so faded anymore.

The kids were so happy about this step because it meant that they could finally start playing on it! That slide got a lot of use and Brendan loved being able to look out and wave from the top. Emma loved it so much she asked if she could sleep out there at night (which is really saying something coming from the girl who doesn’t like to sleep alone at night).

Building a Playset - Brendan climbing down ladder

When we had a free Saturday morning, Dan added the monkey bars and swing set under them, which came together pretty fast compared to the first part. The pieces were all there and we didn’t have to do much fiddling around to get it to fit together, which was nice.

At this point we debated between leaving it as it was as more of a fort, or adding a roof for more of a house look and a little shade from the sun. We were both leaning more towards adding a roof so we decided to go for it. Dan built the frame with leftover wood and I held it up as he attached it to the posts.

Building a Playset - Adding the roof

This proved a whole lot harder then it sounds as that thing was heavy and a little awkward. It also got a little cockeyed during the first installation so we had to take it down, secure it better and then get it back up there again. Our wood clamps ended up saving the day for us as they helped me hold it in place as Dan secured it and we finally got it up there and looking good. Dan bought fence boards for the roof and nailed them on the frame the next evening, overlapping the ends.

The roof is my favourite part. It makes we want to play house and make some mud pies (am I the only one who did that?). The kids have spent hours out here. They love it! Emma has learned how to pump all by herself on the swing and Brendan loves climbing all over it.

Building a Playset - Emma on the swing

Emma and I have great plans for adding some kind of flag and I’d love to stain it someday to unify the old and new wood, but I’ll have to wait until at least the fall so the new pressure treated wood can weather first. We’re also looking forward to adding a sandbox to the mix!

Do you have a play area in your yard for your kids? Where was your favourite place to play as a child?

A Bunch of Peonies

The peonies are finally in bloom. We have one huge plant in our backyard and I’ve been watching the buds get bigger for the past month or so and they just opened last week.

Peonies in bud

I love peony blooms. I cut a bunch of them to bring inside and they prettied up the living room for us.

Peonies on coffee table

I love how fresh flowers brighten up a room and make things feel extra special.

Peonies close up

It’s so nice to be able to walk outside and cut a few blooms for the table. Hello summer!

Peonies in livingroom

Strawberry Picking

We love getting in the strawberry patch every summer. It’s such a fun thing to do with the kids and we usually pick enough to put away some for the winter too.

Picking Strawberries - Family picture

This year we went on a Saturday morning to a local u-pick farm and met up with my mother-in-law at the patch. She goes out picking every year too, so it was nice that we could do it together.

Picking Strawberries - Dan and Brendan

Emma was so excited to go strawberry picking this year and she did a great job. She picked about two baskets all by herself.

Picking Strawberries - Emma

Brendan had a ton of fun running up and down the rows, but I think more strawberries ended up in his mouth then in his basket. He rarely had more then one strawberry in his basket at a time, but he was pretty happy carrying it around.

Picking Strawberries - Brendan

It was so much fun watching these two follow each other around the patch.

Picking Strawberries - Kids

We picked sixteen quarts all together, which went pretty fast. The berries were so good this year too. Perfectly ripe.

Picking Strawberries - Getting more baskets

After we got home we washed and hulled the berries and put them away in the freezer. We enjoy them on pancakes and in crisps all year long. And of course, quite a few of them get eaten fresh too. There’s nothing quite like fresh strawberries.

Picking Strawberries - Emma tasting

Are you picking berries this summer? What do you like to do with yours?