Category: DIY Projects
First of all, I want to send a big thank you to everyone who attended our Lumberjack brunch! I love throwing birthday parties for my kids. Getting everyone together and celebrating the two best things that have ever happened to me sounds just about perfect. Besides, I’m a bit of a Pinterest addict and love to fill my evenings with projects when I have the time. While this party wasn’t exactly Pinterest worthy, I would love to share some of the fun things we had.
Lucky for us, Hobby Lobby has a whole section of lumberjack party supplies. If you know Ryan and I, you will understand that we are kind of lumberjack people. I majored in Forestry, we live in the country, plaid is a staple in our wardrobes, and Ryan has the lumberjack beard. We pretty much didn’t have any choice but to have a big ol’ brunch with plaid on every surface. I still had some birch disks and lanterns from our wedding center pieces, and they fit right in.
I made some simple envelop pillow covers in some “Bearly Beaver” fabrics I found on Fabric.com. Micah has some cloth diapers made in this fabric and it was too cute not to use it at the party. I have a bunch of mismatched pillows that I’ve been meaning to made seasonal covers for and I think these will look great in the fall/winter next year. You can see them in our family picture.
I made a progression banner of Micah’s monthly pictures, which hung above our drink station (complete with paper birch straws from Amazon). All it took was a little bit of card stock, pictures, and some plaid ribbon.
We had all of the good brunch foods, including pancakes, french toast, farm fresh eggs, bacon, sausage, homemade maple syrup, fruit, juice, coffee, mimosas, and beer. What could be better? We bought some great red chaffing dishes from Party City that fit the theme perfectly and labeled the food with some plaid card stock.
Oh, and several posts on Pinterest got me interested in s’more mix, a tasty treat of marshmallows, chocolate chips, and golden grahams. I highly recommend it.
Like I mentioned before, Hobby Lobby had an assortment of lumberjack decorations and party supplies.
We finished the day with a lumberjack cake and some cupcakes with ax toppers, also from Hobby Lobby.
The boys had a great time and I hope our guests did too! Ryan and I enjoyed having everyone here. Now we have to think up a theme for next year! As any parent knows, the months go by fast and it will be here before we know it. As always, thanks for reading and check back soon for more fun!
This spring we decided to venture into making homemade maple syrup. The good news is, as long as you have access to a maple tree, it is a really simple process! The boiling can be quite time consuming (more on that later), but the final product is worth every minute of it. We started by getting a starter kit from Tap My Trees with a great book with all of the information you need. I’ll give you a little summary.
First, you need some basic equipment to get started. This part is actually very simple and affordable. For collection you will need:
- A Tap: We purchased our taps from Tap My Trees. Most taps are created about the same, but I have only used these. We loved them.
- A Hammer: To tap in your taps
- A Drill: Taps can come in different sizes, so make sure you have a drill bit that matches the proper size for the tap.
- A Collection Bucket: You can buy buckets made specifically for maple sap or you can make your own from a milk jug or other food safe container. We used both plastic and metal buckets from Tap My Trees. We loved the classic sound of the metal buckets, but we liked the cheaper price of the plastic buckets. You really can’t go wrong!
- A Lid: Debris will get into your collection buckets if you don’t have some kind of lid.
- A 5 Gallon Bucket for Storage: When you collect your sap you will need a large, food safe bucket for storage. You can keep sap in these buckets refrigerated or packed with snow for up to a week. This is great news if you only have a few taps and want to wait until you have a substantial amount to boil. Remember, it take 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup!
- Cheesecloth: It is best to run your sap through cheesecloth before putting it in your storage bucket to remove any large pieces of debris that may change the flavor of your sap.
Once you have these few simple pieces of equipment, you are ready to get started.
This can definitely be a family event. We took the boys out in the sled and tapped our trees. It doesn’t take long (unless you have a lot of taps). We only had 6 taps this year.
Putting out your taps is as simple as drilling a hole about 2 inches into a maple tree at chest height at a slight upward angle. Insert the tap with a few gentle taps of a hammer, not too hard. Hang your bucket and you are good to go. If the temperature is right, you may see sap flow immediately. The sap flows the best when it is in the 40’s (F) during the day and freezing at night. The freeze-thaw pattern is what causes a pressure change in the tree. This can mean that syrup season can last a week or 6 weeks. It all depends on the weather.
Once we had about 6-8 gallons we started the boiling process. This is the long and slightly more difficult process. Assuming you do not have an evaporator you will need:
- A Candy Thermometer: Water boils at 212 Degrees F at most elevations. You can test your boiling point with a candy thermometer. Maple syrup boils at 7 degrees above water.
- A Stainless Steal Pan: We used 2 different pans for each stage. We used a large buffet pan on our gas grill and a stock pot in our kitchen to finish the syrup.
- A Fuel or Fire Source: You can find all sorts of DIY evaporator plans online, many of which use the buffet pans. We did not have the time or firewood to make our own evaporator. Instead, we just used our gas grill.
- Filter Paper: Once you are done boiling your sap you will need to filter it before it is put into the final container.
- Canning Jars: Boil your jars and put the syrup in hot to properly can them.
We started boiling sap on the grill. This process took a lot of propane and I would not recommend it for a large amount of sap, but for 8 gallons or so a day on the grill will work just fine. Keep the lid cracked so the steam can escape. Remember, your goal is to get rid of as much water as quickly as possible. When you add more sap to the already boiling pan, you need to preheat the sap first. This will help you maintain the boil.
Once the sap is down to about a gallon, transfer the remaining “almost syrup” to a stock pot and finish indoors. This will give you better control over the temperature. Some people use a hydrometer to measure the sugar content, but for a small operation a candy thermometer works just as well and can clip right onto a pot of sap.
As the sap cooks down it will take on an amber color. Sap collected early in the year will remain an amber color and sap from later in the spring will appear darker. As long as the thickness and taste is to your liking, can it and enjoy it!
Everyone should try making maple syrups at least once. At the very least, it will make you appreciate what really goes into making it and you will appreciate your local syrup so much more. We made a gallon of it and will definitely have a larger operation going next year. Maybe I can even talk Ryan into a $2000 evaporator…? Anyways, stay tuned for more homesteading adventures. Thanks for reading!
About 1 year ago Ryan and I bought a camper. It has already taken us on many adventures and we are very excited for more to come. We bought a 2005 Jayco 25RKS, which is code for a 25 foot camper with a rear kitchen and a slide out living area.
One of my favorite bloggers, Bower Power, recently wrote a post about the vintage camper they bought and the remodel they are going to take on. I love the idea! Our camper isn’t vintage, but I decided that if we are going to spend so much of our summers in it, why not make it our style? I have found that campers generally don’t fit our style, but I also don’t want to do any major renovations, mostly just fabric and wallpaper changes.
After discussing it a bit, I did some searching for patterns and designs we love. We have decided that we want to cover the wallpaper border (1), add some throw pillows and recover the valances (2,3,4), put a peel and stick back splash in the kitchen (5), get a new quilt (6), and recover the dinette cushions (7). We have narrowed it down to 2 options.
- Sweet JoJo Designs Wallpaper Border – Diamond Grey
- Michael Miller Backyard Baby Birch Forest
- Let’s Go Camping Jargon
- Premier Prints Feather Silhouette
- NuWallpaper Shiplap Peel and Stick
- Lush Decor Shelly Stripe Quilt
- Art Gallery Hello Bear Buck Forest
- Sweet JoJo Designs Earth and Sky Wallpaper Border
- Michael Miller Backyard Baby Birch Forest
- Quilt Camp Bias Check Blue
- Kaufman On the Road
- Pearl Hexagon StickTiles
- Room Essentials Arrow Print Duvet
- Premier Prints Arrow
We are excited to get started on this new project, but it is a big one and will take a bit of time! To be honest, I’ll be happy if we have a good hold on it by the end of summer. Which is your favorite? We’d love to hear your feedback. Thanks for reading!
I love, love, love updating furniture. I recently acquired a desk from my Grandma that has seen better days. It started out like this:
It also had a piece on the back to hold envelopes and stationary but I had already removed it when I took that picture. I recently got some gold paint that I have wanted to use as an accent on a piece and this was perfect! I had leftover paint from our guest room that I love and would match the gold, so that was the winning color.
The inlays, drawer pulls, and legs all got gold accents.
I’m not entirely sure where this desk will end up, but it is currently in my craft room. I hope to find it a good home soon. 🙂
I’m playing a bit of catch up when it comes to blogging, but I would like to start with the boys shared nursery. As soon as we found out we were having another boy we decided to put both kids in the same room. The nursery needed a bit of an update to accommodate 2 kids. First, we had to transition Harrison out of the crib. We decided to put a twin mattress on the floor and he actually adjusted to it really well. Now he loves his big boy bed.
We also needed more storage. I picked up an ugly yellow dresser for $10 at a garage sale last year. I had some leftover blue paint from our office makeover and decided to do an ombre look. I started with a dark blue paint and added a bit of white each time I started a new drawer. As long as you stir it in really well and save a sample for touchups, it’s a really easy process. Not bad for $10!
We had put Harrison’s name above the crib when we moved into this house, but we needed to add a new name to the wall. Instead of putting names above their beds (because they wouldn’t be centered on the wall), we put them in the gallery wall we already had. We rearranged and added some new details to the wall. We weren’t 100% sure of Micah’s name, but we thought putting it on the wall might be a good way to try it out, and it stuck!
I made a mobile, recovered a chair, made a crib skirt, curtains, etc in preparation for Harrison and it just didn’t feel right not to make something extra special for Micah. I decided to make him a mobile that matched our northwoods theme.
I bought some gold rings at a garage sale a few years ago and a mobile seemed like the perfect way to use one. With some feathers I collected when the chickens were molting and a bit of fabric I made a simple but fun mobile for Micah and it hangs above his crib.
Along with the furniture and finishes we already had, I think the nursery turned out to be a pretty nice room they can grow together in.
Micah currently sleeps in a bassinet in our room but will be joining Harrison before too long. Stay tuned for more updates soon!
A couple years ago I scored this awesome antique dresser at a garage sale. I paid a bit much for it, but I knew it would look great once I stripped the old paint off of it. It started out a beige color with a crackle finish.
This project took me 2 years to finish, but it is finally done! It needed to be completely stripped. My original plan was to stain the whole thing, but it had some rough spots on it that paint would cover. With a coat of Dutch Boy paint (Rockets) and a Brazillian Rosewood gel stain on the top surface, it turned out better than I could have expected!
The wood grain on the top is gorgeous and I just couldn’t paint it. I put on new crystal knobs and replaced one keyhole hardware that was missing. The little details are what makes this dresser perfect.
For more details on how to strip furniture see my fireplace makeover. For more pictures and updates check out our Facebook page and Instagram page. @the.design.eye
Our new house has great vinyl railing on the front porch. Unfortunately, the back deck didn’t have railing and it was a bit of a hazard, especially for Harrison.
We decided we wanted the railing to match the front of the house, even though it is pricey. We waited until it was on sale and then about $600 later had a great looking back deck too. The installation was incredibly quick and easy (much better than installing a wood railing with all of those spindles).
We started with a corner post and screwed it right into the deck. We had to beef up the support under the deck so that we had wood to screw into, but that was as simple as adding a block of 4×4 to the support that was already in place.
The railing went together really easy but needed to be cut to length in a few sections. It was as easy as using a hacksaw, even for the steel inserts.
The most difficult part was climbing into these thorny bushes to screw in the extra support. (Guess who was lucky enough to get that job?)
We had the option of putting an extra post next to the house or using a pre-cut plate to fit the vinyl siding. We chose the plate and saved an extra $60 in posts. What can I say? We’re cheap and it looks good. They are not completely centered because they are already fitted to the siding, but the color matches out trim and it is barely noticeable.
It took us 2 evenings after work to complete the job for a fairly large deck and we love the results!
I would definitely recommend the vinyl railing if it is in your budget. It looks great and is so easy to install. Here is the before and after from the backyard:
The after picture was taken later in the evening, hence the color differences. The deck actually feels bigger now that the space is defined, and it is safe for Harrison too! We are also working on several other outdoor projects at the moment. Thanks for reading and check back soon for more updates!
We have been in the new house for 3 months today and we are finally getting settled. It takes a long time to get things in order and organized, get things hung up on the walls, etc. Most of you will recall Harrison’s nursery in our first house was bright yellow with a woodland animals theme. Before Harrison was born, we didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl. Once we moved, we were able to give him a more masculine nursery.
I painted an orange stripe on the wall and hung his name up too. Most of the furniture came from his old nursery including the recliner I made a slipcover for when I was 8 months pregnant. The newest addition is this teal teepee I bought from Amazon for an early birthday present. Harrison climbed right in and loved it! He has a really neat reading nook now.
We kept the woodland animal theme for the most part and hung up the same things he had in his old nursery, including the bird house night light.
I also kept the rug and curtains from his first room. I made those no-sew curtains and you can see the tutorial here.
I’m sure the room isn’t complete yet. I always seem to find more projects, but for now he is all set. In this house Harrison has more than twice the space he had in his first room. Kids have a lot of stuff, so it is filling up fast! Luckily, he also has a walk in closet to store all of this extra clothes and toys. We are blessed with a lot of space in this house!
I have more updates on our exterior projects coming soon! We have installed a railing on the back deck and it looks great! Check back soon for more updates and as always, thanks for reading!
Happy Earth Day! I’m proud to say that this year Ryan and I have made a lot of changes to decease our environmental impact. Once we decided to cloth diaper we realized how much of the rest of our lives seem disposable. Everything around us is individually packaged or made to be thrown out after one use. While we still have a long way to go, I would love to share with you some of the ways we are not only going green, but how we are saving money doing it as well.
1. Cloth Diapering: I will start here since this motivated us to make the switch. A disposable diaper takes about 500 years to decompose in a landfill. The EPA reports that 20 billion diapers or 3.5 million tons of diaper waste is dumped in landfills each year. By switching to cloth diapers, you can save over $2,000 per child and another $500 if you choose cloth wipes as well. They are also adorably cute. See more details here.
2. Unpaper Towels: This has been a big money saver for us. We received several white dishcloths as a present. Now we grab those whenever we would normally use paper towels. We have not bought paper towels yet this year. We do keep some on hand for pet messes, but we are lucky that those are pretty rare. The initial cost of switching to cloth is minimal and it can be washed with your regular laundry.
3. Cloth Napkins: Similar to paper towels, you can invest in some cheap cloth napkins and save bundles on buying paper. It seems much nicer to use cloth anyways and it looks great when you set the table.
4. Reusable Grocery Bags: I received these for Christmas and it has saved so many plastic bags from making it into a landfill. We keep them in our car so that we have them when we make a last minute trip to the store. I have these grocery bags and these produce bags. Our grocery store also gives you $.05 for every bag you bring in, which is a nice bonus too. The initial cost of these bags is very reasonable.
5. Reusable Sandwich Bags: Ryan travels for work and takes a lunch with him. We have switched to reusable sandwich and snack bags. These are food safe and come in many prints and colors. You can purchase them here. I can’t remember the last time I bought ziplock bags! Nicki’s Diapers often adds these to your order for free, so we have only purchased a few ourselves.
6. Compost: Depending on if you pay for garbage pick up, composting can save you a ton of money. We feed most of our vegetable scraps to the chickens, but you can compost so many things! The EPA estimates that Americans create 14 million tons of food waste each year. 4% is composted. Check out this page for more info and a great explanation of what can be composted.
7. Gardening: You can save so much money by growing your own food. Even if you are limited on yard space, you can start a container garden! If you can’t garden in your space, be sure to check out your local farmers market. When you buy local produce or grow your own you are saving the earth by reducing pollution caused by transportation. Don’t buy your produce from Mexico, buy it from your neighbor!
8. Keep Chickens: It’s no secret that I love chickens. We raise them for eggs and meat each year. After the initial start up cost, it is relatively inexpensive to keep chickens and they keep us in eggs and meat. The meat birds are only a 6-8 week commitment and feed us all year long. Chickens do not require a lot of space or time. If you have ever considered keeping chickens, take the plunge this year! You won’t regret it.
9. Reduce Weekly Waste: Americans make more than 200 million tons of garbage each year according to the EPA. We have decided to challenge ourselves to see how much we can reduce our waste. When shopping, choose items that are not individually packaged. It is so easy to buy the yogurt that comes individually packaged, but how is it any difference than the tub? The larger container is often cheaper and creates less waste.
10. Don’t Buy Bottled Water: This is a big problem for me. In the past we have always bought things in bottles and cans. We recycle, but it would be much better to buy larger containers and drink from the faucet instead. I hope this will be our biggest change this year!
I hope this has inspired you to take the plunge and make a change this year! Happy Earth Day!
We are finally starting to see a bit of Spring in Wisconsin. Yesterday it was even in the 60s. We spent quite a bit of time outside yesterday assessing what needed to get done. Because our house was a foreclosure, a lot of the yard work was neglected for a while. The house has gorgeous landscaping, but it is full of leaves from fall of last year. It is really fun to see what plants and flowers will come up this spring. There is also the issue of the Christmas lights on the house. They all need to come down, but some of them are quite a ways up there!
We also have an issue with gravel in the lawn. When they plowed out the driveway when the house was for sale, they didn’t know where the driveway stopped, which resulted in piles of gravel in our lawn and on the sidewalk.
The previous owners didn’t use the entire backyard. They kept one part of it mowed and let the rest of it grow. A lot of it is overgrown at the moment. This wouldn’t be a big problem if we didn’t have rambunctious dogs that would be full of ticks in no time and a chicken coop we needed to build in that space.
Our biggest project will be putting a railing on the back deck. It is definitely not safe for Harrison at the moment, but it will be nice when it has vinyl railing to match the rest of the house. We have the railing purchased and just need to install it when we find a free moment.
I am very thankful that this yard doesn’t look like our first house when we moved in. We had much more work to do when we closed on that house. I will never forget the piles of dirty diapers we dug out of that yard…yuck!
Speaking of our first house, many people have asked what we are going to do with it. At the moment we are working on it on the weekends and trying to get as much trim done as possible. We are really hoping to list it for sale in June. We love that house and put in a lot of work, so it is hard to think about letting it go, but I hope we can find a family that can really love and appreciate the work we put in. I hope to update with some pictures once the weather gets nicer and the lawn greens up a bit. As always, thanks for reading!
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